Happy Thanksgiving! 28 Movies I’m thankful for in 2013

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Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! It’s the first time I’m spending Thanksgiving apart from my dearest hubby, as he’s in Jakarta, Indonesia and I’m here in sunny San Diego, but I’m thankful nonetheless. It’s been such a blessing to spend time with my BFF whom I’ve been friends with since Junior High! I should make a list of Great Friends in Movies in her honor, kind of like what I did for my loving hubby a couple of years back: What I’m Thankful For – My Loving Husband and also my list of Wonderful Movie Husbands. Did you notice that Christian Bale‘s John Rolfe in The New World kept popping up? I mentioned him again on this Breaking Emotions: Smiles 😀

Now, I’m thankful to be a movie blogger and I’m especially thankful for the friends I’ve made through blogging, and getting press accreditation that gives me access to advanced screenings (Thanks to everyone at ALLIED!). So with those, as well as the two Film Festivals in town: TCFF and MSP Int’l Film Festival, it’s truly been a great year for me as a movie lover. I’m not as hugely prolific as other bloggers but still, there are probably far more films I could list here. But since it’s the 28th today and that number represents a good 2013* sampling based on what I’ve seen so far, let’s just go with that.

MoviesImThankfulFor

Here they are in alphabetical order:

12 Years a Slave
A harrowing and unflinching depiction of human cruelty but it also offers us the beauty and power of the human spirit. I’m thankful for Steve McQueen‘s skillful direction and Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s brilliant performance.

August: Osage County
This film makes me thankful for my family, no matter how nutty and chaotic we think we have it. Beauty amidst chaos. There’s something so out there yet relatable about this dysfunctional family tale, and the amazing performances made this so disquieting yet entertaining.

Austenland
I had so much fun watching this on the big screen. It was hilarious and sweet, yes it’s cheesy and goofy at times but that’s kind of the point. It’s an homage AND a spoof in one, and as a Jane Austen fan, it was a blast to watch.

Captain Philips
There are stories that truly made me grateful for being alive and well, and this is one of those films. It’s wonderful to see an old favorite performer (Tom Hanks) in top form and a brand new face making his mark for the first time (Barkhad Abdi).

Disconnect
A story that really makes you take stock and reflect at our own lives and what’s going on around us. It also introduced me to an amazing British actress Andrea Riseborough who impressed me in all three films I saw her in (the other two were Oblivion and Shadow Dancer)

Fast & Furious 6
Not every movie has to aim for an Academy Award. This one sets out to be a thrilling action with over-the-top spectacle and it delivers! I also like the underlying message about taking care of one’s friends and family.

Gravity
A technical marvel that offers one of the most emotionally-gratifying story I’ve seen this year. We take so much for granted the simpler things in life, but after seeing this, even just inhaling air into our lungs feels like an amazing privilege. Thank you Alfonso Cuarón for making such a masterful work we’d appreciate for years to come.

Her
A movie I barely knew anything about yet I was floored by how much this affected me. It’s such a unique love story. It’s disturbing, thought-provoking, soul-stirring, with a haunting quality that would linger long after the credits roll. I’m always thankful for films that remind us what it means to be human, so thanks Spike Jonze for making this, and Joaquin Phoenix for your soulful performance!

In A World …
Lake Bell‘s debut is real comedic gem! I really like the story of the voice over industry, which I’m surprised it hasn’t been tackled before as that material makes for a comedic gold. I hope she continues to make movies, as Hollywood could use more female filmmakers.

Iron Man 3
To be honest I was rather blase about this one but somehow Shane Black managed to still inject a fresh approach into this bankable Marvel franchise. Robert Downey Jr. once again proves why he’s the best paid Marvel superhero as his charm and wit never fails to entertain. Plus Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley add so much to the fun playing baddies.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The themes of racial injustice is how much we have overcome but also that the US still have a long way to go. I was so moved by Cecil’s journey as a person as well as a loyal Butler serving under five American presidents. It’s a poignant, touching and heart-warming portrayal that’s also humorous and lively.

Man of Steel
I’ve seen it three times by now and though I didn’t fall in love with this one as I did with Donner’s first Superman film, there are still a lot to love here. For one, Henry Cavill‘s version the kind of Superman I can actually identify with, his hu-MAN aspect is actually far more intriguing than his SUPER one and his relationship with both his Kryptonian and earthly family are beautifully-realized.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
I know I’ll always be thankful for any film with Idris Elba in the leading role. Especially when it’s a role that showcases his chops and versatility as an actor. I have to admit I feel a bit guilty drooling over him as he’s playing Mandela, but really can you blame me? Who knew Mandela was so darn hunky? 😉

Monsters University
Thanks Pixar for taking me back to the adorable citizens of Monstropolis! Sully, Mike & co. are still a blast to watch, especially little Mike Wazowski as a dorky green-eyed monster in grade school, complete with his teeth retainer! It really made me appreciate the gift of friendship as the movie took us into the journey of how Mike & Sully first become friends.

Mud
There’s something so gratifying to see a talented actor gets a comeback of sort and seeing Matthew McConnaughey in the past couple of years is like seeing him making the most of his second chance at [acting] life. This beautifully-shot film also features marvelous portrayal of unlikely friendships between two young boys and Mud, a man w/ a shoddy past.

Nebraska
Yet another film that makes me appreciate the intricacy of family, that there’s grace even in the most complicated and frustrating relationships. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this film as much as I did, so that’s always something to be thankful for. Bruce Dern and Wil Forte are such an unlikely pairing that paid off big time. The father-son relationship is as convincing as it is endearing. Plus June Squibb is a hoot with her irreverent frankness.

Pacific Rim
Thank you Guillermo Del Toro for such unabashedly fun action movie that’s entertaining to watch over and over! I have seen this movie five times already and I still get this big grin on my face every single time. Yes it’s cheesy but it’s GOOD cheese, so I’m not ashamed that I’ve become a Jaeger groupie 😀 Special thanks to Ramin Djawadi for his super awesome, electrifying score!

Rush
It’s a movie that literally lives up to its title for giving us an adrenaline rush from start to finish. The racing sequences are amazingly-shot and gives us a sense as if we’re right there where the action is, but the dramatic story between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda are just as intriguing to watch.

Star Trek Into Darkness
I already said before that I was thankful to JJ Abrams for making me care for the whole Star Trek universe. I’m especially thankful for Benedict Cumberbatch casting as a sexy villain, he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. It’s also fun to see Capt. Kirk and the Enterprise crew, certainly one of my favorite ensemble cast of recent memory.

Stoker
I had trepidation about watching this as the director had made some really violent films in the past, but I’m glad this one was still within my comfort level. Stoker is a gorgeous thriller with an eerie atmosphere that REALLY gets under your skin.

The Act of Killing
No doubt one of THE most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, yet I’m thankful that director Joshua Oppenheimer made this eye-opening documentary that exposes my home country’s darkest past. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen and in a land where originality is as hard to find as needle in a hay stack, this is a film that every cinephile should make a point to see.

The Angels’ Share
I had the privilege of seeing this Scottish indie gem just a day before my interview with its writer Paul Laverty. It was a joy to watch newbie Scottish actor Paul Brannigan shine in a heist comedy of sort, funny with plenty of heart.

The Armstrong Lie
A well-made documentary that’s as eye-opening as it is beautiful to look at. Alex Gibney got an unprecedented access into one of the biggest sports scandal in history. Yet as disturbing as Lance Armstrong’s doping violation was, it’s the abuse of power and ugly betrayals that struck me the most.

The Hunt
If you want a roller-coaster emotional ride, look no further than this astutely-made Danish film. It’ll make you in awe of its beauty (the acting, cinematography) as well as incredibly angry at how cruel humanity could be as director Thomas Vinterberg immerses you in the protagonist’ plight. Mads Mikkelsen is absolutely brilliant in his understated yet intense portrayal of a man being persecuted publicly for a crime he didn’t commit, and more heartbreaking of all, cast aside by his own friends.

The Kings of Summer
This film made me so thankful of the beauty of nature and friendship, however fragile it can be. A beautifully-shot coming-of-age story that’s peppered with meaningful and hilarious moments. Great script, performances, scenery and soundtrack — it’s got all the ingredients to make an entertaining film that I don’t mind watching again.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
It’s always nice to see a new face on screen, especially someone as charismatic as  London-born Riz Ahmed. He shines as the protagonist in this cultural drama under Indian director Mira Nair‘s careful direction. Though it deals with a political/terrorism theme of 9/11, this is ultimately about a journey of a brilliant Pakistani young man caught between two worlds in a time where prejudice and distrust runs rampant.

Thor: The Dark World
A robustly entertaining film that’s also thigh-slapping-ly hilarious.  Any movie that features the undeniable charismatic Tom Hiddleston is something to be thankful for, in fact I’d be even more grateful to Marvel Studios if they’d just make a Loki movie already… and soon! 

World War Z
I never thought I’d put a zombie flick on my thankful list, let alone one with Brad Pitt in it! But I quite enjoyed WWZ as it’s more of a political thriller than a slasher/horror flick. The story was intriguing enough that I’m actually interested to see how the planned sequel is going to pan out.

* Note that a few of these films might’ve been released in 2012 outside of the US but I went with the US release dates which were all in 2013.


So HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my friends who are celebrating! But you don’t need to have a Thanksgiving holiday to be grateful about something.

So what are some of the 2013 movies you’re most thankful for [so far]?

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Breaking Emotions Blogathon: Smiles & Thrills

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Last week I took part in Mettel Ray‘s BREAKING EMOTIONS blogathon on Tears and Surprise. Check out my entry if you haven’t already. It was a lot of fun to do so naturally I’m game to do another one. Now the emotions for this week are …

SMILES and THRILLS

Continuing with the theme of two opposites, this week’s first emotion is SMILES – now, I had put down laughing at first but again, I’m a bit of a weirdo and I ended up liking the word smiles a bit more. But the idea is still the same, I’m looking for scenes that have made you laugh and smile in the most happiest way possible. May it be the two lovers finally coming together, may it be a dog or a cat being all cute – everything positive and joyful will be suitable for this emotion.

Second one is a bit more dangerous and it’s that THRILL one gets watching a movie, it’s that inner excitement (again a word I wanted to use but it was too long) that will get you on the edge of the seat. Maybe it’s an explosion or a car chase or just the villain entering the building, what scene gets your blood going with adrenaline while sitting in the theater or at home. The dictionary I have says that thrilling itself means shaking, so, what makes you shake in awesomeness with a word “wow” running through your mind.

Check out Mettel Ray’s post on Breaking Emotions: Smiles & Thrills


It should be obvious for posts like these, but just in case, if you haven’t seen any of these, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Ok, so here are my picks:

SMILES

Casino Royale Bond and Vesper’s banter in the train

I absolutely adore this scene! It’s one of my favorites even amongst the dozens of Bond movies I’ve watched over the years because for once Bond is genuinely dazzled and stirred by a woman’s intellect as well as her beauty. Vesper barely revels any skin in this scene, but yet she oozes sex appeal. Vesper ‘overcompensates by wearing slightly masculine clothing’ as Bond puts it, and later the table is turned as Vesper nonchalantly makes a sarcastic remark about Bond’s ‘perfectly formed ass.’ It’s a stimulating banter that Daniel Craig and Eva Green performed with aplomb. Such a fantastic scene that never fails to bring a smile to my face every time I watch it.

How to Train Your Dragon –  a touch of friendship

I always love stories of unlikely friendships and there is nothing more unlikely than a little boy and a dragon. Toothless is unbelievably adorable that I wish I could have one as my own pet! The scenes where Hiccup slowly gets to know the Night Fury dragon are the best, especially the drawing scene … Toothless is trying to draw Hiccup using the tip of a tree branch and as Hiccup walks closer to him, Toothless makes a gesture ‘don’t step on the line!’ The moment Toothless lets Hiccup’s hand touches his face is so sweet and deeply moving, it’s as if Toothless gestures to him ‘I trust you now.’ John Powell’s score makes the whole scene even more awesome!

..

The New World – Pocahontas & John Rolfe

The last 20 or so minute of this 2.5-hour film with John Rolfe and Pocahontas brings such joy to me as I LOVE the tentative relationship between the two. It’s such a contrast to the more passionate yet tumultuous relationship between her and Captain Smith. After Pocahontas married Rolfe and goes to England, the supposedly-missing Smith was able to track her down. Rolfe lets his wife goes and meets him, though in one scene Rolfe is shown to be in torment, perhaps fearing the worst that his wife would leave him now that Smith is back.

TheNewWorld_SmithIsBack

The way Terrence Malick sets up this scene is just brilliant in its minimalism. There’s barely any words spoken but the body language speaks volumes. The moment Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) catches up to Rolfe as she walks back into the house, she just hugs his left arm from behind, clutching it so tight as if to say I’m here… with you… and nothing would keep us apart. Rolfe’s subtle reaction when she does this is priceless… he pauses as if he couldn’t believe his luck. It wasn’t a celebratory reaction where he suddenly takes her in his arms and kiss her or anything like that but it’s apparent that he’s ecstatic…  It’s apparent how much Rolfe loves his wife, and the fact that she now has chosen him after all must’ve brought such indescribable euphoria. Though it’s a small role, I consider this one of my all time favorite Christian Bale performance… I wish he’d do more romantic roles like this one!

TheNewWorld_Rolfe_Pocahontas_England



THRILLS

Now for this emotion, I decided to forgo any kind of ‘chase’ scene, be it car, boat, planes, horse, what have you. I might actually made a separate list specifically on thrilling chase scenes at some point 😉

Inglourious Basterds – Opening interrogation scene

You don’t always need an action scene to create a thrilling sequence. This opening scene is basically just two people sitting on a table talking… but the way this interrogation scene is set up is so darn intense that my nerves was stretched to its snapping point. Col. Hans Landa is a rather soft-spoken Nazi officer but his polite mannerism actually makes it the scene all the more suspenseful! It’s the quintessential ‘edge of your seat’ scene that had me gripping the arm rest and my poor husband’s arm. The bar scene in this movie qualifies as well, but I chose this one as I like the sheer simplicity, but yet so meticulously-crafted to maximize its impact.

Jurassic Park – We’re back in business!

There are SO many thrilling scenes in this film that it’s really tough to choose from. I was going to put the Raptor in the Kitchen scene as that one was unbelievably gripping, but I like that this one was going back and forth between the Laura Dern’s character Ellie trying to get the electricity back on and her husband Alan (Sam Neill) with the two kids as they’re climbing the temporarily-off electric fence!! I couldn’t sit still watching this scene, and when you think things are under control — ‘We’re back in business!’ — your worst nightmare just jumps right at you! Spielberg is relentless in piling up thrill after thrill here that still holds up even 20 years later.

Mission Impossible 4 – Burj Khalifa scene

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Even though I know full well Tom Cruise is not going to plunge into his death, this scene still makes my palms sweaty! Far more gripping than any car/chopper/train/boat chases Agent Ethan Hunt’s ever been involved in the previous three movies. Now THIS is worthy to be called Mission Impossible and Cruise is such a daredevil actor himself that he actually did his own stunts! It never fails to give the ultimate adrenaline rush every single time I watch it, makes me wish Brad Bird is back doing MI-5 again!


What do you think of my picks? Which scenes would YOU pick for smiles and/or thrills?

Valentine Special: Spotlight on 14 Favorite Movie Couples

Ahhh… it’s Valentine’s Day.

Yes it’s perhaps a commercial birthday where flower and candy shops get to guilt people to get something nice for their significant other. I actually told my hubby not to get me flowers this year and instead we’d get something nice for BOTH of us to enjoy. It is after all, a holiday to celebrate LOVE and it’s a two-way street.

V-DayCollage

For today’s post, I want to shine a spotlight on movie couples from various genres. Some of these pairings might not necessarily be from a romantic film, but their romance certainly are memorable. I deliberately exclude those that I have included in my first top 10 movie couples list I did three years ago just for the sake of not being redundant. Here it is again as I’m sure most of you didn’t read that post:

  1. Julia Roberts & Hugh Grant in Notting Hill
  2. Gerard Butler &  Emily Mortimer in Dear Frankie
  3. Russell Crowe & Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential
  4. Christian Bale & Emily Watson in Equillibrium
  5. Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
  6. Harrison Ford & Julia Ormond in Sabrina
  7. Gregory Peck & Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday
  8. David Duchovny & Minnie Driver in Return to Me
  9. Heath Ledger & Julia Stiles in Ten Things I Hate About You
  10. Michael Douglas & Annette Bening in The American President

Just to make things easier for me to narrow down, I’m focusing on films from the 90s and up. If I were include classic movies however, no doubt I’d include Rick and Elsa (Casablanca), Nickie & Terry (An Affair To Remember), Maria & Capt. Von Trapp (The Sound of Music), Joe & Anna (Roman Holiday) and Rhett & Scarlett (Gone with the Wind).

So here are [a sampling] of fourteen of my favorite movie couples, wonderful pairings elevated by bewitching chemistry of the actors. No matter what the circumstances, even if their romance didn’t work out as they (and we) wish it to be, their passion ignites the screen and warm the heart. Some couples are such an enchanting match that it lives on for decades (Before Sunrise), whilst others have become more memorable than the films themselves (The New World)… at least to me anyways.

Well, as pictures are often louder than words… I’ll let these images speak for themselves:

Aragorn & Arwen
(Viggo Mortensen & Liv Tyler – The Lord of the Rings trilogy)

AragornArwen

Amélie & Nino
(Audrey Tatou & Mathieu Kassovitz – Amélie)

AmelieNino
Kate & Harvey
(Dustin Hoffman & Emma Thompson – Last Chance Harvey)

HarveyKate

Hawkeye & Cora
(
Daniel Day-Lewis & Madeline Stowe – The Last of the Mohicans)

HawkeyeCora

Darcy & Elizabeth
(Matthew MacFadyen & Keira Knightly – Pride & Prejudice – 2005)

DarcyLizzy

Jesse & Celine
(Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy – Before Sunrise)

JesseCelineBeforeSunrise

Frank & Rachel
(Kevin Costner & Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard)

FrankRachelBodyguard

Jack & Rose
(Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet – Titanic)

JackRose

Pocahontas & John Rolfe
(Christian Bale & Q’orianka Kilcher – The New World)

JohnRolfePocahontas

Phantom and Christine
(Gerard Butler & Emmy Rossum – Phantom of the Opera)

PhantomChristine

Jin and Xiao Mei
(Takeshi Kaneshiro & Ziyi Zhang – House of Flying Daggers)

Jin_XiaoMei

Paul & Victoria
(Keanu Reeves & Aitana Sánchez-Gijón –
A Walk in the Clouds)

PaulVictoriaAWalkInTheClouds

Bond & Vesper
(Daniel Craig & Eva Green – Casino Royale)

BondVesperTrainScene
Robbie & Cecilia
(James McAvoy & Keira Knightley – Atonement)

RobbieCeciliaAtonement


I invite you to check out my past romance-related posts:
10 Romantic Comedies I LOVE | Favorite Unconventionally-Romantic Flicks | Roman Holiday Appreciation | Favorite Period Drama Heroes Part I and Part II


Thoughts about my picks of movie couples? Feel free to add your own picks in the comments below.

The ups & downs of Christian Bale’s career

In light of Public Enemies release this past week (which I’m hoping to see soon), everybody’s talking about Johnny Depp as Dillinger. Hey I like Johnny as much as the next guy, but it’s Christian Bale whose career often leaves me perplexed at times. I mean he’s obviously a gifted actor from the moment Stephen Spielberg discovered him 22 years ago in Empire of the Sun. And he’s got the chiseled good looks to go with such enormous talent.

Yet his film choices over the years teeter between obscure (Reign of Fire, Capt. Corelli’s Mandolin) and spectacular (3:10 to Yuma, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight). Still it’s fascinating to follow what the folks at Moviefill calls the Bale roller-coaster career.

ChrisBaleRollerCoaster
Click to see a larger version

Source: Tumblr

A few films were omitted which includes a couple of my personal faves: The New World and Equilibrium. They’re on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as story and role goes. On the first, he played a wealthy 17th-century gentleman who fell in love with Pocahontas, and in the latter he’s an elite super-soldier trained to be devoid of emotion in a futuristic world. Yet Bale can play both convincingly. Now if only he’d cave in and do a comedic role one day, ok maybe not a rom-com but a smart comedy (um, something like A Fish Called Wanda perhaps?) Come on Christian, you’ve got it in you!