Weekend Viewing Roundup + The Two Faces of January (2014) review

Well last Friday was the first weekend of Spring but Winter’s still not done with us yet as it was the Winter Wonderland again Sunday night. I didn’t think the snow was going to stick but here’s what my neighborhood looked like as I left work this morning! I do love those snow-covered branches!

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Skipped the cinema again this weekend, but rented a few things from Netflix: Shaft (the 2000 version with Samuel L. Jackson – review upcoming) and The Two Faces of January. Apparently The Phantom of the Opera (2004) w/ Gerry Butler and Emmy Rossum is now on Netflix streaming so of course I had to rewatch that again. In fact, I also watched half of the 2006 BBC Jane Eyre w/ my dahling Toby Stephens. Wintry night in is meant for viewing indulgences 😉

RoyalDeceitOh, on Thursday night also rented what’s supposed to be a Danish re-telling of Hamlet called Royal Deceit. I couldn’t believe how horrible it was, it’s simply ghastly in terms of direction, script (if you can even call it that), production design, as well as acting. I only saw it because of the stellar cast: Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Tom Wilkinson AND a young Any Serkis (this was apparently his film movie), all of them were absolutely wasted in one cringe-worthy scene after another. I honestly thought the cast might’ve lost a bet or something to star in this movie, what a criminal waste of talents! If I were to rate it, it’d get a big fat ZERO reel as there is nothing redeemable about it.

Anyway, here’s my review of …

 The Two Faces of January

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A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

This film seems to have the making of a great psycho thriller, given that it’s from the writer of great mystery thrillers The Talented Mr Ripley Strangers on a Train. I haven’t read Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, but I’d think the book might’ve been more exciting. It has its moments but it suffers from a rather sedate beginning and sluggish second act before it finally picks up in its third act.

I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in anything new in a while so it’s always nice seeing him here, playing an older, elegant businessman Chester Macfarland traveling with his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Mortensen is a solid actor and he does a great job here, but I find myself drawn to the tour guide/con-artist Rydal (Oscar Isaac) with his brooding good looks and dark, enigmatic eyes. There’s a palpable sexual chemistry between Isaac and Dunst, and Isaac also has some great dramatic scenes with Mortensen, especially towards the end.

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The breathtaking cinematography in Athens and Crete is practically a character in itself and it serves as a fine distraction during some of the film’s slower parts. The finale’s foot-chase scene in Istanbul was stylishly shot and that’s definitely the most exciting part of the entire film. Iranian director Hossein Amini made this film with a Hithcockian flair to it, and the use of light is quite dramatic, especially in the night time scene in a Greek ruin. Apparently this is Amini’s feature film debut so that might explain the uneven tone, but I think he did a pretty good job for a first timer and I’m curious what he’d do next.

I think the strength of the film lies in Mortensen and Isaac, and the film’s main conflict is ultimately between these two. Mortensen convincingly displayed the jealousy and paranoia that constantly haunted Chester, whilst Isaac’s character couldn’t seem to shake his lust for Colette that sucked him deeper and deeper into this dangerous predicament. I’ve been a fan of Isaac for some time and I sure hope he’d get more leading roles as he’s got such an effortless screen magnetism.

Given the intriguing plot and the cast, this could’ve been a really compelling and riveting noir thriller. As it is now, the film dragged in parts and felt longer than its 96-minute running time. It’s also hard to care about the unlikable characters, even if there’s a hint of redemption in the end. But overall I still think it was well-worth renting, especially if you’re a fan of Highsmith and Hitchcock and/or any of the cast.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen The Two Faces of January, I’d love to hear what you think!

The Weekend That Was… RIP Peter O’Toole & Interstellar teaser

How’s your weekend everyone? Was it an eventful one or busy with Christmas shopping? Well, the arctic air still hasn’t left us yet, it’s really getting pathetic that we got excited when temps go even 15 above zero! Today it’s almost 30˚ F and boy did it feel good! Here’s a recap of what I saw, as well as a few film-related events happening this weekend:

Well this weekend I got to see the new *rePOTO_CameronMackintoshimagined* version of The Phantom of the Opera, created by Cameron Mackintosh. It’s incredible that POTO is celebrating 25 years on Broadway this year and this new production — with a new set, choreography, lighting and scenic design — has premiered in the UK last year. This is the third time I saw POTO on stage and I was mesmerized once again. It’s really all about those gorgeous, haunting music and the younger cast definitely bring the story to life. I LOVE the stage production but it also makes me appreciate the 2004 film with Gerry Butler in the title role, which is decidedly faithful to the stage version. I appreciate both format but the nice thing about the film is that I can easily watch that over and over again on my Blu-ray 😀

As I saw three advanced screening during the weekThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (check out my thoughts on the movie), Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis), so this weekend I opted for home cinema. Thanks to Kim and Fernando for recommending these two animated features.

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As a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon, I definitely enjoyed this short film immensely. The baby dragons are as adorable as ever, but once again, the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless the Night Fury is at the heart of it. I can’t wait for the follow-up to HTTYD coming next year!

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I actually have seen Hunchback of Notre Dame a long time ago but for some reason I didn’t remember much of it. It’s darker than the average Disney animated features, but the story demands it so it works well here. Of course it’s not without the conventional Disney ballads and goofy-but-endearing characters, but the story definitely has a good message of good vs. evil and a heartwarming tale about the triumph of the outcasts.


This weekend, we saw the passing of a true Hollywood legend, Peter O’Toole. Apparently he was being treated at London’s Wellington hospital after a long illness. He was 81.

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I had just seen his most iconic role in Lawrence of Arabia for the first time earlier this year. In fact, I got the Blu-ray version and both my husband and I was really blown away by it. It definitely lives up to the masterpiece status, both the film and Mr. O’Toole’s performance are hugely iconic. I have only seen Mr. O’Toole in The Lion in Winter, his cameo in One Night with the King, and his voice work in Ratatouille. I should try to see his comedic work in My Favorite Year (which my friend Kevin has reviewed here) and How To Steal A Million with Audrey Hepburn.

Farewell Mr. O’Toole, may you rest in peace.


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As 2013 draws to a close, soon comes a time of huge buzz and anticipation for 2014 movies. One of the big ones is Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi INTERSTELLAR. I just had to post the trailer here in case you haven’t seen it yet:

In the future, governments and economies across the globe have collapsed, food is scarce, NASA is no more, and the 20th Century is to blame. A mysterious rip in spacetime opens and it’s up to whatever is left of NASA to explore and offer up hope for mankind.

Ok so yes I’m a bit of a Nolan groupie but his trailers always get me salivating and frustrated that we have to wait a whole year for this!! The story is intriguing and mysterious, as every Nolan film is shrouded in secrecy. But the cast also got me excited. Matthew McConaughey is hotter than hot right now and I LOVE Jessica Chastain, plus the supporting cast looks great with Nolan regular Michael Caine, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Anne Hathaway and Casey Affleck!

Oh, I also just came across this brilliant fan-made, crossover video from episodes of BBC’s Dr. Who and Sherlock. It’s too awesome not to share:


Well, that’s the weekend recap folks, what did you watch this weekend?