JANUARY Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Hello February! We’re already done with the first month of 2021?! Where did the time go? Well, it’s my birthday month… but February is always a bittersweet time for me.

I actually didn’t watch that many movies last month, though somehow I rewatched more old favorites, most notably the Lord of The Rings trilogy. My hubby and I binged on the LOTR movies over a weekend and they’re still so immensely watchable!

I did watch one in the theaters as one of my good friends I haven’t seen in a while wanted to see a movie after happy hour. We picked a good one that ends up being the movie of the month [see below].

In any case, here’s what I watched in January:

NEW-TO-ME MOVIES

Sound of Metal

My friend Vitali reviewed Sound of Metal last October as part of Twin Cities Film Fest. I wish I had seen this one on the big screen. It’s such a beautiful and moving story of a musician dealing with sudden deafness, boasted by a phenomenal performance by the talented Riz Ahmed. I sure hope he’d get some recognition for his performance here.

The Dig

Read my full review

The Mauritanian

Stay tuned for my review in mid February –
the film is to be released on Feb 19

Malcolm and Marie

Stay tuned for my review next week!

Promising Young Woman

Hope to write my review later this week, so stay tuned!


Series:

The Expanse – Season 5

I found season 5 to be a bit slower and less intriguing overall compared to previous seasons, but the highlight is Naomi’s reunion with her former lover-turned-space-terrorist Marco Inaros and her long lost son, Filip.


Call My Agent – Season 4

This French comedy originally titled Dix Pour Cent! has become one of my favorite series of all time! Since I stumbled upon  a few years ago, I’ve become obsessed with it. Every single episode is amazingly-written and filled with hysterically-funny scenarios the agents at ASK agency constantly get into. The Parisian scenery and famous French guest stars made this even more watchable! This season they’ve got Charlotte Gainsbourg in a hilarious episode. I haven’t gotten to the Sigourney Weaver episode, I think this is the first time they have an American actor as guest on the show.

I have to do a dedicated a post for this series, but if you haven’t seen this yet, I can’t recommend this enough!

Wanda Vision Season 1

There are only 4 episodes so far so I’ll wait until all the end of the season to do my write-up. I’m enjoying it so far. The 50s sitcom style is amusing, funny and fabulous, but it’s the genius of the Marvel team under Kevin Feige that the show is deliberately written to have a strong connection with the MCU. Plenty of supporting characters from previous MCU movies like Thor, Ant-Man, etc. appear on this show, and the SWORD agency gets fans all pumped up that THIS could be the key in bringing the X-Men franchise that Disney now owned to be part of the MCU.

In any case, so who is behind the whole Truman Show-like episodes? I can’t wait to find out more!!



SPOILER ALERT!

Obviously don’t watch this video if you’re not caught up yet with the series as there are spoilers galore on episode 4.


Rewatches:

The Sound of Music

The American President

Call My Agent season 2

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

The LOTR trilogy



MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

Promising Young Woman

It took me a long time to finally watch this just last weekend, but it’s so worth the wait! I’m glad I saw this on the big screen with a good friend of mine… as a woman, I think it’s the kind of movie best seen with a girlfriend. 

Writer/director Emerald Fennell‘s feature film debut has been buzz-worthy for good reasons, featuring an Oscar-worthy performance by Carey Mulligan. I haven’t had a chance to review this yet but check out my friend Rodney’s excellent review that perfectly sums up how I feel about this astounding film.


Well, what did you watch in January and what’s YOUR fave movie you saw last month?

The Flix List: Four Best Film ‘Making-Of’ Documentaries

As a film lover and also a filmmaker wannabe, I love watching behind scenes stuff. It’s probably the closest thing for anyone to see what’s it like to be part of a film crew. Spike Lee once said in an interview, ‘had DVD existed when he was younger, he probably would never attended film school.’ He said you can learn so much from these behind the scenes documentaries that he recommended any film students to watch as much of them as possible.

My list contains the most in-depth look at how films were made and they’re at least 2 hours long, so you need to set some free time aside if you want to watch them. I’ll highlight the best part of each documentary.

1. The Making of Alien 3

This is probably the Holy Grail of behind the scenes docs, for years Fox kept it secret from the public because they didn’t want anyone to know what went on behind the scenes while Alien 3 was being filmed. The film was a box office disaster for them back in the early 90s and it almost destroyed David Fincher’s career.

You can find this documentary on the DVD version of Alien 3 or Blu-ray. I recommend you get the Blu-ray version because on the DVD, Fox edited out some of the segments where Fincher was bad mouthing their executives, while the Blu-ray version was uncut. It’s probably my favorite behind the scenes docs I’ve ever seen. They interviewed everyone who was involved in the project except Fincher, he disowned the film. Fox even invited him to come back and tell his side of the story but he refused since he didn’t want to re-live those ugly moments of his career.

Now if don’t have time to watch this documentary, you can read my earlier article of what went on behind the scenes of Alien 3.

2. The Making of Star Wars (Episode 4-6)

I assume if you’re a big Star Wars fan you’ve probably already seen the making of these films. Again I thought this was one of the best behind the scenes docs ever made, some of the highlights include:

  • Believe it or not, most of the Fox executives wanted to shut down the film because George Lucas was behind schedule. The film was set to come out in Christmas of 1976 but Lucas and his crew couldn’t finish it on time. Luckily for Lucas and film lovers everywhere, the president of Fox studios at the time was on Lucas’ side and told him to keep going and finish the film. Of course the rest is history but just think about how we came that close to never have seen a Star Wars film.
  • George Lucas had a heart attack during the shoot and he was only about 32 or 33 years old! He was so stressed out that Harrison Ford and the rest of the cast members tried to cheer him up every time they’re done shooting a scene. Lucas was constantly being pressured by the studio to finish the film and also had to deal with the harsh conditions of shooting in the desert.

    You can see some more behind-the-scenes pictures here.
  • The special effects team had to come up with new ways to shoot the space ships battle sequences. One of them said since there didn’t have stores like Best Buy, Dell or Apple back in those days, they had to build their own computers. Lucas hired a lot people right out of college, many of them graduated from MIT or Cal Tech.

Those are some of the good stuff you’ll see in the documentary, so if you have some free time I highly recommend you watch it.

3. The Making of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

Another great in-depth look at how these mega budget films were made. You can find these documentaries on the DVD Extended Editions or Blu-ray. Some of the highlights were:

  • You get to see how Peter Jackson and his crew working together on the script and finding the cast for each roles in the films.

    Peter Jackson directing Viggo Mortensen
  • Jackson directed hundreds of people during the big battle in The Return of The King.
  • You can see how Gollum was created by the geniuses at Weta Digital.
  • My favorite part of the doc is when they showed Howard Shores score the films. I love the music of The Lord of the Rings films so to have seen how they created the music was so amazing. Below is one of the five-part video of the scoring process you can find on YouTube:

4. The Making of The Social Network

Another of David Fincher’s film made the list, only this time he was a willing participant. The Social Network was my favorite movie of last year and I thought for sure Fincher would finally win an Oscar for directing but he didn’t. Hopefully he’ll get the golden statue someday. This is probably the shortest documentary on the list but it was still an in dept look at how the film was made. Film students everywhere, I urge you to watch it. Here are some of the highlights you’ll see on the disc:

  • Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin had a couple of heated discussions about the motivations of certain characters in the film. They mostly fought about the relationship of Zuckerberg and his former best friend Eduardo Severin.

  • You’ll see Fincher directing his cast, it’s quite amazing to see how he listened to his actors and didn’t act like a dictator on the movie set. Usually a director of his status tends to be quite a mad man on the set and would tell his actors to do what he says or they’re fired.
  • The special effects crew showed how they placed Armie Hammer’s face over Josh Pence’s so they could be appear to be twins in the film.
  • Justin Timberlake talked about how he prepared to play the role of Sean Parker, even though he’d never met Sean Parker in person.

Well those are what I considered the best making of documentaries, have you seen any of them? Feel free to add any other documentaries that you have seen.

The Hobbit cast shapes up … hurray for Richard Armitage!

I have been following The Hobbit movie news rather casually the past few months, having loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The production seems to have hit a bunch of snags. First the director musical chairs (which I’m glad it finally goes back to Peter Jackson) and lately there’s the actors’ strike that may threaten the filming location to be moved from New Zealand to the UK or Eastern Europe.

But this week Warner Brothers finally revealed the cast of the movie (you can check out the various sources on its IMDb page), which got me jumping up and down with glee. As you probably know from various mentions in my blog, that I adore British actor Richard Armitage! Remember the best kiss and favorite couple meme post? He’s also my choice for Robin Hood when there was rumors they’re developing a futuristic version of the medieval hero. Those in the UK might be familiar with him as he’s currently starring in MI-5 and Strike Back series (when I visited London back in May, the poster of the later show was plastered all over the city with his face on ’em). Ever since I saw him in North & South and the Vicars of Dibley Christmas episodes, I’ve been wishing this talented actor would get a major role in a substantial Hollywood or UK production. But The Hobbit?? Oh my, this by far exceeds my expectation!

Richard will portray Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Company of Dwarfs (The fan art of what Richard would look like as Thorin is courtesy of theonering.net). Here’s what Peter Jackson himself said about the 39 year-old actor:

Click to enlarge

“Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield… We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle-Earth is in such good hands.”

Interesting that they pick someone standing at 6’2″ to play a dwarf (I’d think he’d make a fabulous Aragorn), but then again, John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli was taller than Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen at 6’1″. But according to his IMDb bio, Rhys-Davies’ height was exactly the right proportions to those of his hobbit co-stars and no body doubles were used in their shots together. The hobbits are supposed to average about 3′ 6″ (2 feet shorter than the actors who played them) and Gimli, at just over 4 feet tall, is about 2 feet shorter than the real Rhys-Davies. It’s fascinating to learn about the various technique of ‘dwarf’-ing the actors, Wikipedia lists the complicated use of scale doubles and forced perspective to achieve that effect.

English actor Martin Freeman

By the way, I apparently missed the fact that Richard will also have a small part in Captain America: The First Avenger as the hero’s Nazi nemesis Heinz Kruger, but his role is much more prominent in this LOTR prequel project. Not to mention a chance to work with prominent thespians such as Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Andy Serkis who are reportedly back (per IMDb) to reprise their roles from LOTR. The rest of the new Hobbit cast include: Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Hot Fuzz, Sherlock TV series) as Bilbo Baggins (Frodo’s uncle), Aidan Turner (Being Human) and Rob Kazinsky (EastEnders) will play Kili and Fili, members of the Company of Dwarves. Graham McTavish (Secretariat) will play Dwalin, John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury) will play Oin; Stephen Hunter (All Saints) will play Bombur, and Mark Hadlow (King Kong) plays Dori, while Peter Hambleton (The Strip) will play Gloin (per Deadline).

Are you all anticipating this movie? We’ve got a long way to wait though until the first part of The Hobbit is released in December 2012.

Five Notable Ensemble-Cast Movies in the Last Decade

Well, whaddayaknow, Takers, the movie that was never on my radar is the box office winner this weekend. The first time I learned this movie existed was when seemingly the entire movie blogosphere cried foul over how bad their poster were. There’s bad, and then there’s BAD Photoshop job, and this one was beyond dreadful. Ok, so if you’re going to copy and paste Paul Walker’s head onto another person’s body, how hard can it be to find one that fits?? The other two guys next to him don’t fare better either as their necks seem to have been, um, taken? But hey, apparently the ‘takers’ got the last laugh. Maybe all that lousy buzz was helping them after all, y’know, I guess all buzz is a good buzz in Hollywood.

In any case, there’s been quite a few of ensemble-cast movies this Summer: The Losers, A-Team, and of course the mother load of them all: The Expendables. An ensemble cast is a cast in which the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance and screen time in a dramatic production. Of course, though the lineup alone might entice one to see a given movie, not all ensemble-cast movies are created equal. Sometimes they don’t live up to the cast it’s made up of, no matter how spectacular it is. Case in point: NINE, which is too bad considering the people involved. But it’s nice to see when the cast works more than just getting ‘butts in seats,’ but actually elevate the story. Well, I think these five are good examples of that:

1. Paris je t’aime (2006)
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Natalie Portman, Nick Nolte, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Rufus Sewell, Emily Mortimer, Willem Dafoe, Gena Rowlands

A love letter to the city of love, this film offers an amalgam of love stories from twenty different filmmakers. Its success sets a bunch of copycats (New York, I Love You; Valentine’s Day, etc.), but the concept alone doesn’t make a great movie. Paris, je t’aime still sets the bar high in creating a cohesive piece out of a myriad of unique and sometimes bizarre short stories. I enjoy most of the short stories, but if I have to pick a favorite, I love the Quartier Latin segment with Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazarra, directed by Gerard Depardieu. It tells the story of a married couple on their final night together as they’re about to sign their divorce papers, and they share a bittersweet moment as they reflect back on their relationship.


2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Elijah Woods, Sean Bean, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Bernard Hill, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Karl Urban, Miranda Otto, and Christopher Lee.

The cast wasn’t what drew me into this masterpiece epic, in fact, because a lot of them were relatively unknown at the time, I see them as the characters they’re playing, not actors playing a role. And that is the beauty of Peter Jackson’s casting. I can’t imagine anybody else playing the roles of Aragorn, Frodo, Gandalf, etc. other than the actors in this movie. Each actor seems tailor-made for the role they’re playing that it’s such a seamless experience. It’s amazing the kind of unity a movie of this scale can have, perhaps it helps that the cast members have become a ‘family’ after nearly a decade of filming together.


3. Gosford Park (2001)
Cast: Clive Owen, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Helen Mirren, Emily Watson, Jeremy Northam, Ryan Philippe, Kelly MacDonald, Derek Jacobi

A mostly-British cast always appeals to me, so when I saw the poster for this movie I was hooked! Fortunately, the Robert Altman lives up to amazing cast. Set in the 1930’s, the story takes place in an old fashioned English country house where a family has invited many of their friends up for a weekend shooting party. It’s less about the main premise of murder mystery, but more about the relationship of the characters. What’s going on with the house staff and valets below the stairs are just as dynamic and engrossing as the elite socialites. So even though the pace is slow, the well-written characters and witty dialog keep it entertaining. Andrew at Encore Entertainment wisely regards this as one of his best movie cast in his meme. The casting is indeed flawless!

4. Love Actually (2003)
Cast: Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Rodrigo Santoro, Alan Rickman, Andrew Lincoln, Billy Bob Thornton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.


I just saw this one again recently and I must say the casting is just darling for this movie, even if the movie as a whole isn’t exactly a masterpiece. Again, largely British actors make up the cast of eight very different couples dealing with their own love issues that are loosely interwoven with each other. The Christmas theme in London makes it sound like a holiday movie, but the themes of unrequited love, infidelity, second chances, etc. resonate all throughout the year. It’s perhaps one of Hugh Grant’s most charming roles, though my favorite characters are definitely Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman as a couple dealing with temptation and infidelity. When I saw this with my girlfriends, we’re all swooning over the geeky-but-drop-dead-gorgeous Rodrigo Santoro as the object of Laura Linney’s affection. But fans of Mr. Darcy would surely fanning themselves seeing Colin Firth as the lonely widower finding love again after being cheated on. Bill Nighy also provides an amusing comic relief as the outrageous aging rocker.

5. CRASH (2004)
Cast: Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton, Ryan Philippe, Jennifer Esposito
….
This movie won several Best Ensemble Cast awards, and rightly so. They aren’t all big names like in those Ocean’s movies, but the key is finding the right actor for the role and trust them enough to interpret the characters. Paul Haggis did that very well and the result is a fascinating interwoven story that takes place in the course of just 2 days in Los Angeles. Obviously 112 minutes is such a short time frame to tell the story, and it sort of leaves the audience wanting for more. But it’s enough for us to grasp the concept/moral of the story Haggis is trying to say, and the compelling characters are so memorable that their stories linger long after the film ends.

***

Well folks, I’m sure I’m missing a few here. Let’s hear your favorite ensemble-cast movie(s)!