Thursday Movie Picks #54: Sequels

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

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. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Sequels!

Since I have to pick only three out of a possible 10-20 sequels that have become my favorites, I have to set some sort of parameter to narrow things down. So for this particular list, I’m focusing on live-action movie sequels of the last decade. So that means I’ll be excluding some great animated movie sequels like Toy Story 2 and How To Train Your Dragon 2, as well as some of my all time favorites like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, X-Men 2, Terminator 2, The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, or even Spider-man II as that was released eleven years ago. Interestingly, I ended up picking three that are part of a trilogy (the final film of the rebooted ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie, War of the Planet of the Apes, is in the works for 2017).

So without further ado, here are my picks of three favorite sequels of the last 10 years:

Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
TMP_Sequels_Bourne3

Jason Bourne dodges a ruthless CIA official and his agents from a new assassination program while searching for the origins of his life as a trained killer.

For some reason I had not reviewed any of the original Bourne trilogy but they certainly are superior than Bourne Legacy. For one thing, Jeremy Renner just isn’t charismatic or intriguing enough as a super spy. Matt Damon on the other hand, somehow fits the role of Jason Bourne perfectly. I actually wasn’t a big fan of the actor until I saw Bourne Identity, but Damon absolutely killed it as a trained killer. The final third chapter of Bourne’s journey is one relentless thrill ride, featuring some of the craziest car chases ever filmed thanks to Paul Greengrass’ phenomenal camera work. The film also benefited David Strathairn and Joan Allen’s performances in the supporting role. Plus the music by Moby is awesome, I’ve done a Music Break on that a couple of years ago.

s I….

The Dark Knight (2008)TMP_Sequels_TheDarkKnight

When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the caped crusader must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice.

When you’re talking about best sequels of the last decade, you can’t possibly overlook this masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. I have seen it half a dozen times and I’m always in awe every single time. It’s SO much more than just popcorn entertainment, though there are fun action scenes abound like the awesome truck-flip sequence (one of those scenes I could watch over and over). But what really riled me up and stayed with me for days after is THIS interrogation scene between Batman & The Joker. Two of this generation’s finest actors together in one room, Christian Bale & Heath Ledger were in top form here, each giving an Oscar-caliber performance. Ledger won a Best Actor award posthumously, but even if he hadn’t passed away, he deserved at least a nomination for that riveting performance.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)TMP_Sequels_DawnPlanetApes

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

I never thought I’d like this *intelligent apes* story when I saw the first film, as I hadn’t even seen the original Charlton Heston movie by then. But I was so taken by Caesar’s story, played brilliantly by mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis. The second film proved to be an even more emotional journey for Caesar, I teared up on that scene when he saw the house he grew up in. The film isn’t perfect, i.e. what’s up with Gary Oldman’s screaming matches, but overall it was a truly immersive experience. Matt Reeves created a wonderfully atmospheric loaded with genuine suspense and terror, as gripping as it is emotionally-gratifying. [my full review]. Glad he’ll be back for the third film.

……


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

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My entry to the Movie Roulette Blogathon

movie-roulette-posterWhen I saw this blogathon that Getter over at Mettel Ray Blog is hosting, I simply had to participate! What an awesome idea, and original one at that. It must’ve taken her ages to made five of those gifs.

Here are the rules:
1. There are 25 facts, you have to pick 5 or more and for each, you drag out a movie as an answer! *Click on the gif, hold it and drag out a single movie*
2. You can only drag out one movie for each statement, no do overs,
3. Write down your answers and feel free to comment whether they make sense or not.
4. Link back to this announcement, and link to the Movie Roulette Ultimate Gif Set as well!
5. Last but not least, have fun!

This proves to be quite fun to do, though I have to admit sometimes I pick the movie first then look at the facts [hope that’s ok Getter!] 😀 Ok, here goes:

1. This movie describes my mood in the mornings the best

YouveGotMail
You’ve Got Mail

Every morning, first thing I check is my iPad for email/twitter/tumblr, etc. In a way, my online connection is what fuels my day 😛

2. I hate the main [male] characters of this movie, but I think they [are] still very hot

ThisMeansWar
This Means War

I abhor the daft idea of this movie but I still watched it [on the plane] for these two guys. I mean Tom Hardy AND Chris Pine looking every bit as gorgeous in every scene? Heck yeah!

3. I would make love to this movie’s plot, it’s amazing

Casablanca
Casablanca

Glad I saw this on the big screen, thanks to TCM Rerelease! One of the best stories about unrequited love… beautifully done all around.

4. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night thinking about this movie… it’s so good!

TheDarkKnight
The Dark Knight

As I just happened to see this interrogation scene during Christopher Nolan’s lecture earlier this month, I remember thinking about how good this scene is. It’s so well-constructed and the two actors are absolutely perfect. It was mesmerizing and it really riled me up.

5. When I think of my childhood, I think of this movie

Superman1978
Superman: The Movie

Well naturally. I saw this when I was a wee girl, probably 4-5, and even at that age, I immediately fell for Christopher Reeve. Yep, he set the bar VERY high for my future crushes.

6. Every time this movie is on TV, I turn it off and sit in complete silence instead

FriendsBenefits
Friends with Benefits

This movie actually never came on TV as I barely watch any TV. But if it were, I’d rather sit in silence or watch paint dry than watch this.

7. This movie makes me so emotional I even cried while watching it

Her_Joaquin
HER

I saw this in a nearly empty cinema and I’m glad there was nobody sitting near me as I was bailing my eyes out in some scenes. It struck me hard emotionally… it was a beautiful experience.

8. If I ever made a movie, it would be something similar to this movie

NottingHill
Notting Hill

I’m referring to the basic idea of this film, and I’ve been toying w/ the idea for some time. In fact, this inspires me to resurrect the Fantasy Movie Pitch blogathon that a now-defunct blog used to do a few years ago.

10. I always wanted to punch this movie’s main character(s) in the face

Twilight
Twilight

I don’t usually get such a violent reaction whilst seeing a movie but can you blame me? I actually watched some clips of this as it’s now on Netflix Streaming [not sure why since I hated it the first time]. I had such a strong reaction wanting to punch these two silly that I simply turned it off.

10. I’m going to recommend this movie to the next person who asks me to recommend them a movie! (Challenge accepted!)

Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler

I’ve actually been recommending this to people who haven’t seen it, and will continue to do so!


Well that’s been tricky but fun! What do you think of my picks?

20 Perfect Cinematic Moments – A Fistful of Moments BLOGATHON

AFistfulOfMomentsI LOVE this idea of blogging about our favorite scenes, so I’m glad Andrew from A Fistful of Films Blog turned this into a blogathon! Here’s what he has in mind as to the kinds of scenes he’s referring to:

We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think “man, this is what the movies are all about”. We relive those moments in our mind’s eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it’s edited together. It could be the way the moment uses it’s actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.

Before I get to my – and Ted’s – list, I thought I’d mention about this two-part post I did back in 2009 (click on each image below to see the full list w/ youtube clips). Essentially those 20 scenes are perfect cinematic moments to me, that’s why I LOVE watching them over and over.

Top 20 movie scenes I could watch over and over again – Part 1 Top 20 movie scenes I could watch over and over again – Part 2

It’s interesting how some scenes still resonate with us so much and that you’ll treasure them forever. But for this blogathon, I will not pick scenes I have included in those two lists, but I might still pick a scene from the same film.


Glad to have Ted joining in on the fun, so let’s start with his list!

TED’s PICKS

1. Bond standing on top of MI6 building in SKYFALL

SkyfallRooftop

Skyfall is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite Bond films and this scene near the end is just breathtaking. After failing to save M’s life, Bond looking over the city of London and realizes that he’s meant to be a secret agent to not only saves his city from the bad buys but also accepting the fact this is he’s meant to be for the rest of his career. Casino Royale was about rebooting the franchise and Skyfall was about rebooting James Bond himself. It’s not just a great Bond film but also a great action/adventure film of all time.

2. Opening sequence of Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Instead of a photo, this sequence can only be appreciated when you see the actual scene.  When I first saw this film I was very young and this opening scene gave the creeps. The music starts, we see the credits and Malcolm McDowell’s Alex is staring straight at the camera and Kubrick then slowly zooms the camera out showing Alex and his gang. You know you’re going to see one messed up film with that opening. Alex is one of the most villainous characters in film history, reportedly Heath Ledger model his Joker after Alex.

3. The wedding dance sequence in ‘The Godfather’

WeddingDanceTheGodfather

I don’t know why I love this sequence at the beginning of the film so much but I can’t get enough of it. I love how Coppola shot this scene; especially Brando was dancing with his daughter. The Godfather is one of my all time favorite films and I love so many scenes in it but this one’s probably my absolute favorite.

4. The Joker shows his face in the opening scene of ‘The Dark Knight’

TDK_JokerBankRobberyScene

The opening bank robbery scene of The Dark Knight was one of best opening sequences of all time in my opinion. The Joker unveil himself after killing all of his henchmen and stole $64 mil of the mob’s money to start his chaotic plans of destroying Gotham and toying with Batman. Nolan shot this entire sequence with IMAX cameras, the first in film history and when I saw the Joker’s scarred face on the giant screen, it’s kind of frightening.

5. Clint Eastwood’s William Munny shoots a bunch of people in a bar in ‘Unforgiven’

Eastwood’s Unforgiven is one of the best westerns and one of my all time top 10 favorite films. I love this climatic shootout scene, especially the scene where he raised the shotgun and shot the unarmed bar owner. There are so many beautifully shot scenes in this film but I love this one.


RUTH’s PICKS

1. Her – Theodore and Samantha singing together

I saw this film in a practically empty cinema, which is nice so I don’t have to worry about balling my eyes out watching this film. Her was one of the most emotional film-watching experience and this is such a sweet moment in the unlikely bond that form between human + machine.

2. Moulin Rouge! – Tango scene

Sooo many wonderful scenes to choose from this superb musical, but if I had to pick just one, it had to be this one. The dark, sultry atmosphere of the tango scene, meshed together with the scene of Satine being kept captive by the Duke is simply intoxicating. Ewan McGregor’s Christian never looked so appealing and his voice laden with anger and desperation.

3. The Dark Knight – Interrogation scene

Christopher Nolan’s Batman films formed one of cinema’s BEST trilogy ever and though I have a special fondness for Batman Begins, which is a superb origin story, The Dark Knight is arguably the best of the three. THIS scene in particular, was mind-blowing when I first saw it… and still riveting with each rewatch. I’ve featured it in this post a while back, and not surprisingly, it’s also Nolan’s favorite scene from the film.

4. Bourne Supremacy – car chase with Krill

There have been tons and tons of car chase scenes in movies and though a lot of them have been entertaining, none is as memorable and riveting as this one. Matt Damon’s Bourne met his match in the equally relentless Krill (Karl Urban, lethal but oh-so-gorgeous!). Paul Greengrass infused the action with such kinetic energy, everything from the camera angle, the music, and the brief eye contact between the two actors made for one electrifying scene. My muscles literally felt a bit sore after watching this from all that tension!

5. Sense & Sensibility – Marianne thanking Col Brandon after she’s ‘out of danger’

SenseSensibilityThanksBrandon1SenseSensibilityThanksBrandon2SenseSensibilityThanksBrandon3SenseSensibilityThanksBrandon4I have included the scene when Brandon first beheld Marianne in  this list, so I thought I’d include my second favorite. Brandon’s love for Marianne is so vast and pure, altruistic in its nature that he’d have been content that she was out of danger and she’s reunited with his mother. So this acknowledgment from her must’ve meant the world to him. Even Eleanor recognized the significance of this moment and I love how the camera somehow captured that moment as Brandon quietly left the room. All the emotion is palpably written on his face… such a subtle facial gesture but it hit me like a ton of bricks that I never ever NOT cry watching this scene. Is it any wonder I LOVE Alan Rickman?

6.  Spider-Man 2 – train sequence

Truly one of the best and most memorable moments out of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. The pure adrenaline rush of the train-stopping action is followed by an emotional rush of seeing the people help their savior who’s identity’s been revealed. One Subway rider remarked, “He’s just a kid…” as they all gathered around his unconscious body. Hard not to get choked up watching this scene…

7. The Passion of the Christ – resurrection

I’m not including this scene just because it’s Easter Sunday this weekend. I saw this film on the big screen and it was perhaps one of the most emotionally-rattling experience that my body was physically shaken by the end of it. As a Christ-follower, the story deeply resonated with me. There are numerous depictions of Christ’s suffering but it’s the resurrection scene that’s rarely depicted more memorably. John Debney’s score is such a crucial element in this particular scene, as far as cinematic moment goes, few is as perfect to me as this one.

8. Jurassic Park – Welcome to Jurassic Park!

I was watching the Jurassic World trailer on IMAX just before Furious 7 the other night and while I really want to see the new movie, it made me think of how the first Jurassic Park movie affected me. THIS scene is what started it all… how awestruck the two Dino-obsessed scientists Alan and Ellie were the moment they saw Brachiosaurus for the first time. For a few moments, we don’t see just what made them so thunderstruck, but we know from their expression that it was something special. Of course we’re oooh-aahing like they did when we finally saw them with our own eyes… and John Hammond’s welcoming words ‘Welcome… to Jurassic Park!’ still gives me goose bumps!

9. Pride & Prejudice – Darcy helped Elizabeth to her carriage

The best period dramas are full of subtle gestures that made a huge impact. Darcy and Lizzie tried their best to convince themselves they’re so wrong for each other, but failing miserably. I believe it’s THIS fleeting moment that each of them knew they realize that, try as they might, they simply couldn’t deny the attraction. Joe Wright captured this unexpectedly romantic moment so beautifully… especially the close up of Darcy’s hand as he walked away from the carriage. The expression of both actors are simply perfect… this is the moment that made me adore this Austen adaptation the more time I watch it.

10. Pacific Rim – Introducing Gypsy Danger

I have no qualms admitting I LOVE this movie! My hubby and I have seen it half a dozen times since and we actually saw it twice on the big screen, one of them at IMAX. We bought the 3D Blu-ray, too, but haven’t got around to watching it. I remember how thrilling it was seeing the two pilots operating a Jaeger called Gypsy Danger and to see it in action during a stormy night. Ramin Djawadi’s awesome music gets the heart pumping as we see the giant robotic weapon goes out to sea.

11. Mansfield Park – I’ve missed you… 

MansfieldParkHoldingHandsI couldn’t find the exact scene, but it’s part of this fan video between 1:33 – 1:44. Fanny’s loved Edmund all her life and by this moment he’s engaged to someone else. Yet there’s this tender moment between them in the carriage as he takes her back to Mansfield Park. Edmund: “I’ve missed you…” Fanny: “And I you.” Fanny placed her hand next to his and he promptly took it and held it firmly. Fanny’s expression in this moment always gets me every time. Who hasn’t love someone and desperately wants that person to love you back?

12.  Gravity – final scene

It’s been over two years since I saw Gravity but I still remember how THIS finale hit me with such an emotional rush when I saw it on the big screen. After having spent 90-min in space, cooped up in the dark, cold and desperate realm with Sandra Bullock’s character… seeing earth was such a welcome sight. The immersive experience made me feel as if I was right there with Dr. Ryan Stone… breathing oxygen, feeling the sun and wind against the skin, the kind of stuff that we take for granted every day suddenly seem like such an amazing privilege. Steven Price’s score adds so much to the whole cinematic experience, making this astounding finale all the more powerful.

13. How To Train Your Dragon – unlikely friendship blossoming

Animated films have the emotional power as any live action film and so I was contemplating of doing a list of just from the animation genre. I always said I prefer Pixar to any other animation studio, that is until Dreamworks came up with THIS movie. I fell in love with the lead characters Hiccup and Night Fury dragon Toothless, and the moment they became unlikely friends is such a memorably heartfelt one. I always tear up right at the scene when Toothless puts his head on Hiccup’s hand.

14. Belle – meeting John in the garden

Belle_GardenEncounter

I knew I wanted to see Belle when I first saw the still photo above. There’s something that stops me in my tracks about the way they looked at each other, and I didn’t even know who they were yet. So when the scene finally appeared on screen, I was left breathless. The lighting in the garden, the classical music playing in the background, and the way the camera captures each detail of this encounter … it’s got everything I want in a romantic scene. I love the passionate chemistry between Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid. The sexual tension is so thick you could cut with a knife, but it’s also deeply soulful.

15. The Machine – dance scene

If only I had seen this small-budget indie sci-fi on the big screen. It’s one of the most visually-arresting films I’ve ever seen and this dance scene is one of the highlights. The lighting and special effects worked wonderfully to create this magical scene and the atmospheric soundtrack complements is perfectly. The scene above cuts off the part when The Machine walks over to Vincent, her creator who’s been watching her dancing, and embraces him. Superb performance by Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz here, it’s become one of my all time fave scenes of man & machine. The film is not flawless but this scene truly is.

TheMachineDanceScene


Well, those are our picks of 20 perfect cinematic moments. Thoughts on any of these scenes? 

Music Break: Favorite Music Scores from BATMAN Screen Adaptations

BatmanMusicBreak

Happy Wednesday everyone! Inspired by the GOTHAM pilot on Monday night, I thought I’d do a Batman-themed Music Break today. Before I do that, here’s my two cents on the show:

I was going to do a quick review but tonight ended up getting hectic and since I was listening to some Batman music, I thought why not do a Music Break instead. Maybe I’ll do a review of GOTHAM at some point, that is if I’ll watch the entire season. The pilot was better than I expected at least, maybe because I had such a low expectations given how other comic-book shows have failed to keep me tuning in. I stopped watching Agents of SHIELD after just four episodes and ARROW after just two, despite Stephen Amell’s hunky-ness I just couldn’t be bothered!

Now let’s get to the Batman Music, shall we? Nolan’s Batman trilogy are excellent all around, including the phenomenal soundtrack by Hans Zimmer [collaborating with James Newton Howard on Batman Begins & The Dark Knight]. Here are five of my favorites, starting with my most beloved of ALL the screen adaptations out there.


BONUS: I just had to include this one from the video game Arkham City, as the soundtrack is simply astounding! I think it’s even better than most film scores out there.

 


Hope you enjoyed this week’s Music Break. So what’s YOUR fave Batman-related soundtrack?

The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Blog Relay

superhero-movie-relay

Yet another Blog Relay is circulating on the blogosphere! When I first saw this awesome relay idea on Bubbawheat’s Flights, Tights and Movie Nights Blog, I thought boy that’s something I’d love to participate. Well, waddayaknow, the fantabulous Andrew from A Fistful of Films passed the baton to me, hurray! 😀

The rule here is slightly different than a typical blog relay you might’ve seen in the past, so I’ll let Bubbawheat explain it in his own words:

Now the first thing you might be asking is “why are there 12 movies in this top 10 list?” Well there are a couple changes that I’m making to the typical blog relay. Here are the rules for my relay.

1. The list of movies will be passed to another blogger who will post their list within a week.
2. The blogger will take their list, remove 3 movies – with explanations, and replace with 3 new movies – with explanations.
3. If a movie lasts five rounds without being removed, it is locked into place.
4. If a movie is removed three different times, it is locked out and can no longer be chosen by someone else.
5. Once four movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 2 movies.
6. Once eight movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 1 movie.
7. Once all ten movies are locked into place, the relay will be complete.

I will keep the current status of the relay here and you can also follow the steps of the relay as it goes along.

Check out the original relay post to see which initial 12 films made the list.
Andrew removed Hellboy 2, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and X-Men.
He then added Chronicle, Mystery Men and The Rocketeer.

So here’s the list as it currently stands:

The Avengers
SuperheroesRelay_Avengers

The Dark Knight
SuperheroesRelay_TDK

Superman
SuperheroesRelay_Superman1

Spider-Man 2
SuperheroesRelay_Spidey2

The Incredibles
SuperheroesRelay_Incredibles

Iron Man
SuperheroesRelay_IronMan

Blade 2
SuperheroesRelay_Blade2

Batman Returns
SuperheroesRelay_BatmanReturns

Unbreakable
SuperheroesRelay_Unbreakable

Chronicle
SuperheroesRelay_Chronicle

Mystery Men
SuperheroesRelay_MysteryMen

The Rocketeer
SuperheroesRelay_Rocketeer

The three I’m removing:Chronicle_Blade2_MysteryMen Chronicle | Blade 2 | Mystery Men

Sorry Drew for removing two of the ones you added, no hard feelings? 😉 As I often say in other blog relays, I’m not so much removing them as I’m just moving them down the list if this were a top 2.

Now, I like Chronicle a lot (I gave it a 4/5 in my review) and if I only need to take out two instead of three movies, I might’ve let that in. I do think that even though it’s inventive, there are plot holes abound and the finale might’ve been a bit too bombastic that it felt like an abrupt shift in tone. As for Blade 2, I LOVE Wesley Snipes in the role but I just don’t know if any of the Blade movies deserve to make the top 10. I hardly remember much about them, so they didn’t leave a lasting impression to me other than Snipes look cool as a bad ass ninja vampire. Lastly, I took out Mystery Men because I haven’t seen it yet. Sorry again Drew, but I really tried to see if there’s another movie on the list I could take out but  in the end I had to let this one go. But since you included it, I might give it a rent 😀

The three I’m adding:

BatmanBeginsWinterSoldierX2Batman BeginsCaptain America: The Winter SoldierX-Men 2

I’m a huge fan of Nolan’s first entry to the Batman trilogy. In fact, I dare say that Batman Begins is as good as The Dark Knight and sets the bar high for a superhero film. I like that it focuses on the hero instead of the villain, and Christian Bale makes for a caped crusader who’s truly worth rooting for. I love it so much I’d even be willing to forgive the Katie Holmes casting! Now The Winter Soldier is still quite fresh in my mind and I do believe it deserves to be in the final top 10 because it has everything you’d want in an entertaining superhero flick and then some. It’s a successful genre-mashup, mixing the traditional superhero genre with a Cold-War espionage story, that expands the characters’ arc and takes the story forward in a thrilling way. As for X-2, well I think at least ONE X-Men film deserved to be on the list and I agree with Drew’s rationale that X-Men 2: X-Men United is a better film than the first film. The opening scene at the White House is fantastic and Brian Cox is one of my fave superhero movie villains as covert government operative Stryker. The multi-layered story combined with great performances gave the film a dramatic weight that transcend beyond fun entertainment. Not to mention the most indelible and emotional finale involving one of my favorite X-Men characters Jean Grey, as mutant vs. human struggle continues… ever closer to the brink of war. Powerful stuff!


Well I hope that at least one of my three pics would stay to the end 😉

I’m passing the baton to my pal & fellow superhero movie fan Terrence of The Focus Filmographer! I’m pretty sure he’s seen all or most of these movies so I’m VERY curious to see how he’d shake up the list.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on my picks. Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

Special Birthday Post: Ranking Christopher Nolan’s 7 Feature Films

As part of my Inception-countdown series, I ranked five of Christopher Nolan’s movies. Well, now he’s got two more under his belt, making his total of feature-length film to seven [excluding Following which wasn’t widely distributed].

Just a quick bio per Wikipedia:

Born in 1970 in London, Nolan was one of three sons of a British father, who owned an advertising business, and an American mother, a flight attendant for United Airlines. Nolan and his brother Jonathan spent their childhood in both London and Chicago. He began film-making at the age of seven using his father’s Super 8 camera and his toy action figures.

For his undergraduate, Nolan studied English Literature at University College London Union (UCLU). He chose it specifically for its film-making facilities, which consisted of a “Steenbeck editing suite (real film, real spools) plus a couple of 16mm cameras.” Nolan was president of the college film society from 1992 to 1994; a contemporary described him as talented and focused on learning as much as possible about the mechanics and technology of film-making.

His big break in Hollywood came with Memento, starring Guy Pearce, which was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best screenplay.

So in honor of his 42nd birthday, I thought I’d rank those seven Christopher Nolan feature films in order of favorites. By favorites I mean those that have the best re-playability value to me, as I do think all of these seven are great-to-excellent. So far, there is none of his films that I didn’t like, and Nolan is the only director whose ALL of his work I have seen.

Without further ado, here…we… go:

1. Batman Begins (2005)

The ultimate origins story and I think it’s still the one to beat in terms of the um, inception of a superhero goes. Christian Bale is perfectly cast as the dark, tormented caped crusader and he’s surrounded by a slew of top notch actors such as Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson and Cillian Murphy, etc. The movie also benefits from a fantastic script and a formidable villain in Ra’s al Ghul (Demon’s head in Arabic). I’ve always loved a villain that starts out as friends of the hero, and Neeson’s makes that transformation from fatherly mentor to sinister nemesis convincingly. I’d even overlook the miscasting of Katie Holmes on this one, it’s THAT good!

2. Inception (2010)

Perhaps Nolan’s nod to the Bond franchise, Inception is one of those films that gets better and more satisfying with each repeated viewing. The cast is top notch, with scene-stealing performance from Tom Hardy and fun, rousing action set pieces. What I love most is the intriguing ‘idea heist’ sci-fi concept, and whilst the romance between Cob and Mal wasn’t as compelling as I would’ve liked, I’ve warmed up to it a bit more than I did the first time I saw it.

3. The Dark Knight (2008)

It’s rare that a sequel lives up to the original, especially when one already sets the bar so high, but Nolan did just that! It’s nothing short of casting genius to have Heath Ledger play the Joker, though a lot of people were skeptical at first, the late Aussie actor’s iconic performance forever defined that character that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing that role (neither did Nolan as he said here he won’t bring back the Joker character for Batman 3). The complex story and the level of character development in this film makes me forget this is a superhero film! Gone are the circus-y and frivolous-ness of the previous Batman flicks, as both Nolan’s versions become the quintessential thinking person’s superhero movie. This is definitely a welcome trend for this genre!

4. The Prestige (2006)

As I said in this post, I wasn’t blown away by this film on initial viewing. But about a year later I rewatched it and wow, I was riveted. We’ve got a brilliant tale of two magicians who become friends as well as rival, which intensified when one of them came up with the ultimate magic trick, and Nolan cast two great actors in those roles: Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Nolan’s good luck charm Sir Michael Caine also has an important part, and plus who doesn’t get a kick seeing David Bowie’s cameo as the genius inventor Nikola Tesla!

I have a whole new appreciation for it after the second viewing and felt that I could connect to the characters more, especially with Borden (Bale). The whole twist and turns are utterly perplexing (in a good way) and that ending is just WOW! Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London, Nolan did a fine job in setting up a beautifully-shot period piece with gorgeous cinematography, costumes and wonderfully-rich atmosphere.

5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Now that I’ve seen all three, I think The Dark Knight Rises is my least favorite, though by a very small margin. If you’ve read my super long review, then you’ll know that there are quite a bit of issues I have with it that no amount of cool action pieces would solve. That said, I have only seen it once by now so there’s a chance I might change my mind 😀 I do think visually it just gets better and better, this latest film does boast a visual spectacle that’s meant to be seen on IMAX.

Seriously though, I think Nolan’s Batman trilogy is ace and no doubt I’d buy the Blu-ray box set when it comes out. I think that’s quite a feat considering Nolan didn’t envision a trilogy when he first signed on to do Batman Begins, at least that’s what I learned from various interviews.

6. Insomnia (2002)

Did you ever notice Nolan’s really skimpy when it comes to his movie titles? His one-word-titled movie starting with an ‘i’ is a small film with a budget of less than $50 million. Under less capable hands, the story of two Los Angeles homicide detectives set to investigate a methodical teenage murder in Alaska might’ve end up to be a run-of-the mill thriller. But the smart, twist-ridden script and excellent performances from the cast made this into something memorable and thrilling to watch. Al Pacino as the increasingly unhinged LA detective and Hilary Swank as the young cop who adore him work well together, but it’s Robin Williams’ as the creepy nutcase who’s the scene-stealer. I think comedians actually make for the eeriest villains. Despite the title, Nolan certainly kept the audience wide awake with this one.

7. Memento (2000)

One of the most original story and most innovative narrative structure, it’s one that rewards with multiple viewings. Nominated for two Oscars for Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay, this is the first time mainstream audiences are introduced to Nolan’s genius work. A tale of a man who, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife. Guy Pearce is astounding as Leonard, it’s a shame he was snubbed of any major acting nods! As #28 in IMDb’s Top 250 Movies (along with three other Nolan’s movies), this movie is etched in many people’s memories for years to come. That said, this is perhaps the one film from Nolan that I have yet to see again and I’m not as keen to revisit it as I do the others.


Well, I’m sure everyone will have their own ranking of Christopher Nolan movies, so let’s hear it!

The Good & Not-So-Good about The Dark Knight Rises – Ted’s Review

Well it’s finally here, The Dark Knight Rises opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. I was lucky enough to have seen it at an advanced screening Wednesday night. Since not many people have seen it yet, my review won’t go into any plot points or spoil anything for you.

The movie is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne/Batman is still mourning the death of his true love, Rachel Dawes, while Gotham is living the high life because their White Knight, Harvey Dent, died to keep the peace. For those who went to see M:I-4 last winter at the 70mm IMAX theater, you’ve already seen the opening scene of the film. It starts with Bane high jacking and then clashed an airplane. The first half hour of this film started out kind of clunky but once Bane started his chaos and Batman shows up, you’re in for a treat. That’s all I’m going to say about the story, for this review I’ll go through what I thought worked well and what didn’t.

The Good:

Performances-wise, most of the actors did a great job. I was surprised how effective Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman was in the film. She played a key role and I thought Hathaway did a great job, he role is much more serious and “realistic” than Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns.

The returning players are great as always, especially Michael Caine’s Alfred. His one particular scene with Bruce Wayne was quite emotional, well it was to me. But in my opinion, this movie belongs to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I know it sounds strange to say that but when you see the film, you’ll understand. Whatever speculations you’ve read or heard about his character, let’s just say you’ll either going to be excited or not surprised by it. Bale of course was great as always, in fact Wayne has more screen time than Batman.

Just like all of Nolan’s films, the cinematography in this film was nothing short of spectacular. As you’ve probably already heard, half of the movie was shot with IMAX cameras so if there’s a true IMAX theater in your area, do please see it there. Some of the set pieces were quite stunning on the giant screen. You’d be surprised that the film didn’t have as much action as you’d think but when the action does happen, there were well-staged and no shaky-cam or fast-editing. Thank you Nolan for actually filming action scenes that were exciting to watch. The mano-a-mano fight scene between Bane and Batman was pretty awesome, those who’ve read the comics Knightfall series won’t be disappointed.

Also, I have to mention Hans Zimmer’s thunderous score, the theme is very similar to The Dark Knight‘s but it was still good.

The Not-So-Good:

I know it’s hard to top Heath Ledger’s The Joker but I was hoping Bane could at least be as good but unfortunately I thought Bane was kind of underused as the main antagonist. Even though they fixed some of his voice, sometimes it’s hard to understand what he was saying. Now again I can’t say more without spoiling it for you, so I’ll let you judge his character for yourselves.

Marion Cotillard’s Marinda Tate was also underused, I think the film would’ve worked better had her character was fleshed-out more, her character sort of reminds me of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

With that said, I still think this is one of the best big summer films I’ve seen in a long time. Is it better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? I can’t say that at the moment, I plan on seeing it a few more times, then maybe I can decide whether it’s better than the previous two films or not. When Nolan said this film will wrap up the trilogy, he meant it. To me it felt like he finally finished his take on the Caped Crusader.

– review by Ted S.


Well that’s it, for those who’ve already seen it, do you agree with my review? And for those who’re planning to go see it this weekend, hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Scenes Spotlight: The Dark Knight’s Interrogation and Harvey Dent Dinner scene

It’s only been four years since The Dark Knight opens, but it feels like ages. I’m watching it as I’m typing this, though this post has been in my draft folder since I read this Hero Complex article a few months ago. Well, since I’m hugely anticipating the final installment of Christopher Nolan‘s supremely lucrative Batman trilogy, it seems like it’s as good a time as any.

Hero Complex editor Geoff Boucher asked Nolan to pick his favorite scene from The Dark Knight and he answered quickly,

Nolan: To be honest, it’s pretty easy for me. The scene that is so important and so central to me is the interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker in the film. When we were writing the script, that was always one of the central set pieces that we wanted to crack.

This is the scene where Batman nearly lost it… he’s pushed to the limit like he’s never been before. In the article, Nolan shared that he couldn’t find a moment “…where you actually worry that Batman will go too far. A moment where his rage might spill over and he would break his rules.” But The Joker clearly had such power to get into anyone’s skin, including our dark knight. He’s just so ruthless and has absolutely nothing to fear. And all for no real motive, just like Alfred’s story about the Burmese ruby, it proves that indeed ‘some men just want to watch the world burn.’

Even his outlandish appearance makes you squirm, the way he moves, constantly licking the side of his made-up mouth… it’s all very disturbing. And I think it’s amplified tenfold in this scene.

This might be one of the most bright-ly lit scene in the whole entire movie. Instead of the common dark interrogation room, we’ve got a stark room with a harsh, bright light and you see every single detail of both Batman and The Joker. Nolan said that the Batsuit was specifically designed for the scene in a way that it would hold up to the scrutiny of that glaring light.

What I like about this scene is that it’s got humorous elements – hence an easy target for a spoof just on Batman’s voice alone – but it’s also highly sinister, wicked, merciless as The Joker holds the answer to the lives of two people our hero holds dear. So it’s extremely personal for Batman, I mean, one doesn’t go THAT berserk if it weren’t personal, and you just feel for him, his agony. No wonder he’s all ‘bottled-up fury’ as Mr. Boucher said in the interview. I mean, most people might not survive such pressure! Both Heath Ledger and Christian Bale are in top form here.

I like what Nolan said at the end of that article that sums up this scene perfectly: How do you fight someone who thrives on conflict? It’s a very loose end to be left with.

***

You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain

That’s one heck of a great quote… and Aaron Eckhart is just brilliant in this role, absolutely brilliant. I feel like his character, just like Bale’s himself, is drowned out by people’s adulation for Ledger. And while that’s warranted because his Joker’s performance is truly iconic, there are other memorable characters that makes this film so rich.

Now, there’s a plethora of favorite scenes from The Dark Knight that would warrant its own top ten list, that truck flip scene is one of my top 20 scenes I could watch over and over, it’s just pure adrenaline rush! But the dialog is what makes a movie stand the test of time, and the conversation in this dinner scene is most fascinating to me. It’s not only the first time two of Gotham’s most powerful meet: Bruce Wayne and District Attorney Harvey Dent. Unbeknownst to him, Dent ends up defending the masked vigilante right in front of the man himself, and he believes that the Bat-man is on Gotham’s side. Thus, for the first time Bruce is hopeful that perhaps one day his city might not need Batman. That night he too, believes in Harvey Dent…


I LOVE this scene! It makes it all the more tragic what happens to Dent at the end… nobody at the table knew that philosophical quote he uttered here is the harbinger of things to come.


So have you been watching Nolan’s first two Batman movies before The Dark Knight Rises? What would you be YOUR favorite scene(s) from The Dark Knight?

Weekend Roundup: The Dark Knight & How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray

Happy Monday, everyone. I didn’t get to the movies again this weekend, but a whole bunch of people showed up in droves to see Paranormal Activity 2, making it the #1 movie with $41 million! No surprise I suppose, as the horror genre usually reigns in October. As I’m not a horror fan, nor am I particularly fond of anything to with Halloween, we opted to see a fun family flick How to Train Your Dragon. Given all the positive reviews, we both had a high expectation for it. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint! LOVE Toothless, now I want my own pet dragon!

Anyway, this week is shaping up to be a cold and wet one in my neck of the woods 😦 Oh well, I knew we’d have to pay for all those gorgeous sunny Fall days we had all last week. But you know what, we’ve got something that might help chase out the blues of the upcoming Winter… we finally got our Blu-ray player! We were going to order online for our player but hubby took the day off on Friday and came across the exact Sony player we were going to buy at a giant retail store in town for 20 bucks cheaper! He then called me to ask which Blu-ray disc we should get first: Avatar or The Dark Knight. It didn’t take me a second longer to yelp, “The Dark Knight, of course! There’s no question!” He..he… I can be so decisive when the occasion calls for it 🙂

I was with my pal Prairiegirl Friday night to see this wonderful BBC production of the Taming of the Shrew, which is one of the four ShakespeaRe-told series, a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. You can see a clip of Rufus Sewell and Shirley Henderson in my Rufus b’day tribute post, I’ll discuss this series in more detail once I see all four of them. In any case, as soon as I got home, hubby was already playing the disc so I couldn’t resist to join him and watch some of the scenes. The image quality obviously is striking in Blu-ray, especially the breathtaking truck-flip scene (so yep, it still deserves to be on this list). The movie itself still holds up well, we were as immersed in the story as we did the first time we saw this in the theater. And after that spectacular, cliff-hanger ending, I’m even more excited to see what Nolan has in store for us for Batman 3. Curious to see what he’ll call it. My friend Ted told me via Twitter he hoped it’ll be The Caped Crusader. Y’know what, I can live with that.

Well readers, hope your weekend was fun. Did you get to see any good movie(s)? Oh, just out curiosity, those who own a Blu-ray player, what disc did you either buy or watch for the first time? Any suggestion for a ‘must-own’ Blu-ray disc?

Counting Down to Inception! Ranking Christopher Nolan’s Top 5 Movies

Woot woot! Three more days until my most-anticipated flick Inception finally arrives! I haven’t talked to any movie blogger so far who aren’t excited about this movie, and most of my friends are psyched about this as well. I for one am trying hard to keep my enthusiasm in check, by playing this ‘game’ coined by MadHatter from The Dark of the Matinee, of ‘Avoidception.’ Basically I refuse to read anything about the plot or watching any clips from the movie, I even avoid watching the latest trailer, which is usually something I do over and over again when it comes to movies I’m looking forward to, as to ensure a ‘fresh’ movie-going experience when I finally sit down at the theater and watch it unfold. For once I’m actually looking forward to a movie more for its director than of its stars!

I also avoid reading the reviews (which currently still stands at 96% Fresh at RottenTomatoes with 27 reviews by the time this post is published), though I did peek at this spoiler-free compilation of them @ Cinematical. WOW, with such lavish praises bestowed upon this enigmatic sci-fi thriller, no wonder this LA Times blog writer even pondered if this flick would suffer backlash from too-great expectations. I sure hope this one deserves all the enthusiastic buzz and be the Summer flick that lives up to the hype.

Well, in honor of the movie’s release, I thought I’d list my Top Five Favorite Nolan films. Granted the 40-year-old British auteur only has less than 10 feature films under his belt, but surely he’s made an indelible mark in the history of cinema.

  1. Batman Begins (2005)
    The ultimate origins story and my favorite Batman film ever! Nolan’s got a reputation for cajoling exceptional performances out of his actors, but when you already have a thespian like Christian Bale as the lead, it’s pretty much a given. Surrounded by a slew of top notch actors such as Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson and Cillian Murphy, etc., the movie also benefits from a fantastic script that rewards you with each repeated viewing. I’d even overlook the miscasting of Katie Holmes on this one, it’s THAT good!
  2. The Dark Knight (2008)
    It’s rare that a sequel lives up to the original, especially when one already sets the bar so high, but Nolan did just that! It’s nothing short of casting genius to have Heath Ledger play the Joker, though a lot of people were skeptical at first, the late Aussie actor’s iconic performance forever defined that character that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing that role (neither did Nolan as he recently said he won’t bring back the Joker character for Batman 3). The complex story and the level of character development in this film makes me forget this is a superhero film! Gone are the circus-y and frivolous-ness of the previous Batman flicks, as both Nolan’s versions become the quintessential thinking person’s superhero movie. This is definitely a welcome trend for this genre!
  3. Insomnia (2002)
    Did you ever notice Nolan’s really skimpy when it comes to his movie titles? His one-word-titled movie starting with an ‘i’ is a small film with a budget of less than $50 million. Under less capable hands, the story of  two Los Angeles homicide detectives set to investigate a methodical teenage murder in Alaska might’ve end up to be a run-of-the mill thriller. But the smart, twist-ridden script and excellent performances from the cast made this into something memorable and thrilling to watch. Al Pacino as the increasingly unhinged LA detective and Hilary Swank as the young cop who adore him work well together, but it’s Robin Williams’ as the creepy nutcase who’s the scene-stealer. I think comedians actually make for the eeriest villains. Despite the title, Nolan certainly kept the audience wide awake with this one.
  4. The Prestige (2006)

    Bale & Jackman as friends-turned-arch rivals

    Out of the five Nolan’s movies, this is my least favorite. Now, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean I dislike it, an OK movie from him is still better than average. The story is a riveting one: a tale of two magicians who become friends as well as rival, which intensified when one of them the ultimate magic trick. It’s got the recipe for a movie I’d love, especially given the cast that include Christian Bale (one of my faves) and the eye candy that is Hugh Jackman, as well as Nolan’s regular, Sir Michael Caine. Fans of David Bowie would also got a kick out of seeing him in a small but important role.

    I wasn’t blown away by it initially but upon re-watch, I had a whole new appreciation for it and felt that I could connect to the characters more, especially with Borden (Bale). The whole twist and turns are utterly perplexing (in a good way) and that ending is just WOW! Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London, Nolan did a fine job in setting up a beautifully-shot period piece with gorgeous cinematography, costumes and wonderfully-rich atmosphere.

  5. Memento (2000)
    One of the most original story and most innovative narrative structure, it’s one that rewards with multiple viewings. Nominated for Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay, this is the first time mainstream audiences are introduced to Nolan’s genius work. A tale of a
    man who, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife. Guy Pearce is astounding as Leonard, it’s a shame he was snubbed of any major acting nods! As #28 in IMDb’s Top 250 Movies(along with three other Nolan’s movies), this movie is etched in many people’s memories for years to come.

P.S. I will be revising this list now that I have seen Inception and watch The Dark Knight Rises. Stay tuned.


Ok, now your turn, everyone. How would you rank YOUR top five Nolan films?