Long Weekend Roundup: An underrated Bond flick, a Sci-fi Horror and some TV Watching

Happy post-Thanksgiving weekend! Hope those of you in the States enjoyed your long weekend off, spending time with family and perhaps got some sweet deals from Black Friday? I was quite bummed that I missed the Amazon big sale on the Pixar’s BRAVE 3-disc- st blu-ray, it was only $8 bucks on Thursday from 2-6pm but I thought it was Friday! 😦 Ah well, I guess I’ll wait a bit longer until there’s another good deal for it.

Well, I got 5-days off this weekend so it’s movie-watching time in the comfort of my entertainment room. We actually skipped the cinema all week long as there’s really nothing that made the trip worthwhile. So it’s a lot of rewatching and catching up on older movies, including my third rewatch of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which was still a lot of fun! I still got goosebumps watching Tom Cruise on top of that Burj Khalifa skyscraper!

I also got to rewatch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, something I’ve been wanting to do but finally iTunes has it available to rent.

I think I saw this movie years ago when I was growing up but my memory of it is hazy. So I felt like I have seen this for the first time now and I actually enjoyed it. Ok so George Lazenby is far from being my favorite James Bond and there are some silly parts, especially those with all the girls at Blofeld therapy session, ahah, and what’s with him and the kilt? 😀

Back to Lazenby though, I don’t think he’s a terrible Bond, he just doesn’t seem all that charismatic. He does have a lean, athletic physique and handles all the action and fight scenes stuff very well. He even looked manly wearing a ruffled shirt! Perhaps if he had done a couple more films, I might like him more than Brosnan but I guess we’ll never know. I quite like Telly Savalas as Blofeld, he’s not super menacing but not cartoon-ish either. Diana Rigg is fabulous as the beautiful and feisty Contessa Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo, the kind of brain + beauty combo I like, just like Eva Green’s Vesper. Now I know why my friend Michael likes Rigg so much 😉

I think the action stuff is excellent, especially the ski and sled chase scenes. But it’s the love story aspect that separates this Bond film from the rest, and that end scene when Bond cradles Tracy’s lifeless body in his arms is so heartbreaking. Even though I already knew it’s going to happen, I still teared up as he said, ‘It’s ok really, we have all the time in the world.’ Speaking of which, that score by Louis Armstrong is absolutely beautiful… it even has a tinge of sadness to it which is perfect for this film.


The one movie I have not seen before was the sci-fi horror vampire flick Daybreakers. I’m done with the review but I will post that separately as it’s quite long.

On the TV front, I watched some episodes of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome in 10-minute increments on YouTube, which was pretty decent even though whoever plays the young Adama is not nearly as charismatic as Edward James Olmos but whatever.

My hubby and I are still hooked on Once Upon A Time show so we watched a few more episodes of that too on Netflix Instant. Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr Gold is still the best thing about this show but I’m warming up to Ginnifer Goodwin & Josh Dallas as Snow White and Prince Charming. We might actually finish Season 1 by end of the year!


Well, that’s it for my long weekend round-up. Any thoughts on these films/shows? What did YOU see this past weekend?

Christmas Weekend Viewing Roundup

Hello all, happy Monday! I hope a lot of you get today off as well as Christmas fell on a Sunday. Well, it’s been a nice, mellow Christmas weekend for me but boy did we watch quite a lot of movies!

The three new movies I saw this past week couldn’t be more different from each other… a silent film, an espionage thriller and a motion-capture adventure based on a beloved comic series. All of them are movies I’ve been waiting to see for a year or more!

Earlier in the week I got a pair of advanced screening tickets to see The Artist, thanks to my pal Ted. I’ve got the review done and ready to publish tomorrow, that’s the first film I gave a five out of five star this year. I highly recommend it if it’s playing near you, trust me you won’t be disappointed.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lives up to the ‘smart thriller’ promise though if you don’t like a ‘quiet’ film where not a lot of things are happening, this might not be a movie for you. I watch it mostly for the top notch British ensemble cast and for that reason it did not disappoint. I should have the review up later in the week.

Now, The Adventures of Tintin is still pretty fresh in my mind as I had just seen it yesterday afternoon. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Hergé’s comics and I’ve been waiting for this movie for almost two years! The fact that I was at the Tintin panel at Comic-con made me even more excited for this, which is really quite a build-up leading up to finally seeing the movie. Well, I’ll write a full review for this also but for now I can tell you that I’m glad Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg did the comics justice! They are both fans of Hergé’s work and it shows.

Now, I also had time to watch a couple of Gregory Peck-related stuff for my Peck marathon… one is The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which was based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story. It’s the second collaboration of Gregory and his friend, the beautiful Ava Gardner.

I have to admit, that even though the story was engaging and the cast were great to watch, but the fake backdrop used in the studio-sets are quite distracting! Apparently the studios only sent the photographers to the actual locations but the actors all remained in the studio lot. What a pity considering the filming were supposed to take place in Africa (hence the title), Spain and France!

I also finished Gregory’s well-written biography by Gary Fishgall. It’s the first actor biography I ever care to read and it’s quite a page turner. It offers a pretty good history all the way to his childhood and his start on Broadway, as well as a plethora of trivia on his illustrious acting career and his numerous philanthropic efforts. Here was a man who had a big heart and admirable persona to go with that devastatingly handsome good looks. I also watched this warm and candid documentary done by his daughter Cecilia called A Conversation with Gregory Peck (part of the 2-disc of To Kill A Mockingbird), another fascinating glimpse into the life of a true Hollywood legend. You can watch the full doc on You Tube, here’s the first part if you’re interested:


l love that the opening sequence is done in the style of To Kill A Mockingbird, which understandably is the film he’s best remembered for. Oh how I wish I had been able to attend one of those Q&A sessions, but watching the doc allowed me to live vicariously through some of his fans.


So what did you happen to catch this weekend? Please share your own weekend viewing roundup in the comments.

Week-off Viewing Roundup and more Gregory Peck movie marathon

Happy Sunday, everyone! Well, that was that, my week-and-a-half-long holiday is now at an end. It’s ok though, I’m kind of excited to be going back to work tomorrow before I forget what it is I actually do, ahah. It’s been a pretty awesome week for movie viewing, by Sunday evening I’ve watched six films total (well seven if you count my Youtube viewing of Paradine Case), so most of the films I watched are part of my on-going Gregory Peck marathon. I feel like I’m the only one who’s suddenly smitten out of my wits here with a classic (read: dead) actor, I know Nick from Cinema Romantico is also in love with Joanne Woodward, but not sure if his um, obsession is as bad as me, ha..ha.. Well anyway, here’s what I watched this past week:

Thursday

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
Gregory Peck played Tom Rath, a former soldier who faces ethical questions at his new job at a PR firm, as he tries to earn enough to support his wife and children well. This film is over 2.5 hours long and the pace is rather slow, but the plot of the story kept me engaged the whole time. There are flashback scenes as Rath reminisces on his years in the war and his affair with a girl in Italy.

The dilemma he faced in this film is quite relevant to today’s time, whether one chooses to be a company man who lives for his work or keep a balanced life of work and family. Jennifer Jones once again co-starred with him as his wife, but of course their relationship is less tumultuous than that in Duel in the Sun. It’s quite an interesting dynamic here too as Jones played a strong-willed and forthright wife, not the typical meek, dutiful housewife typically seen in this era. I highly recommend this one for any of you classic movie aficionados, or anyone looking for a good, well-grounded story.

The Guns of Navarone (1961)
I’ve been wanting to see this film for the longest time, especially since it came highly recommended by my pals Paula and Michael who are both fans of this WWII adventure thriller. Peck, Anthony Quinn and David Niven are part of a British team sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel.
This film is so darn entertaining from start to finish, plenty of action and great dialog as well as lighthearted moments peppered throughout. The special effects is really something to write home about considering the time this was made, particularly the realistic shipwreck scene. The score by Dimitri Tiomkin is also notable in creating the perfect mood. Now if you’re looking for a historically-accurate film, this isn’t one for you. There is no such place of Navarone in Greece and the size and location of the massive guns themselves are implausible but the historical inaccuracies didn’t derail this movie in any way as it was so well-done. I can see watching this film over and over again in the future. The blu-ray quality is really good and it’s also loaded with extras which are just as fun to watch as the film.

Friday

HUGO

I came to see this one blindly… I merely glanced through a few reviews and didn’t even want to read too much about the plot other than whatever’s presented in the trailer. I’m also not a Scorsese fan but intrigued by the look of the film. Well, it turns out to be an enjoyable family flick that looks beautiful and worth the 3D price. It’s not without flaws however, which I will discuss more in my full review.

Saturday

More Gregory Peck stuff, but I managed to sneak in a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time. Thanks to Michael’s in-depth article posted last week, I just didn’t want to delay watching it any longer!

The Purple Plain (1954)
Out of the dozen-plus GP DVD collection I’ve accumulated, this tiny-budgeted British war drama will surely get a lot of play in my place. It’s such a nice change to see Peck all disheveled and unkempt for most of the film, such a change from Roman Holiday which he did just a year before. Peck plays a Canadian squadron leader Forrester who lost his wife in a bomb raid. His depressed and suicidal ways almost cost him to be dismissed but a compassionate doctor introduces him to a Burmese girl and soon he finds a new purpose in life as he falls for her.

Fate plays a funny trick when he ends up stranded whilst on a routine flight, but his will to live actually becomes stronger. This isn’t a fancy film, but the substandard special effects is balanced by the exotic on-location setting and the sweet interracial romance between Peck’s character and a Burmese actress Win Min Than. It’s nice to see they didn’t cast someone like Jennifer Jones again and paint her eyes to look Asian or something. This is an absolute must-see for fans of Gregory Peck.

The Iron Giant (1999)
I’m so glad I finally saw this film! It’s a heartwarming story about a boy who makes friends with a giant robot from outer space that a paranoid government agent wants to destroy. The kid was initially terrified of the metal-eating robot and rightly so, but after he discovers that he’s a ‘friendly’ robot, they become quick friends and the boy becomes the ‘teacher.’ It reminds me a bit of How to Train Your Dragon in a way, though I think I still rate that a bit higher in my book.


There’s a good message about good vs. evil and choose to use one’s power for good which will resonate to people of all ages. The references to Superman is pretty cute so as a fan of the DC hero it’s such a treat. I read that somehow this movie didn’t do well at the box office, and that is a shame. Not sure if that’s the poor marketing from Warner Bros, but I’m glad that now it seems this movie has become sort of a classic and hopefully more people will see this in DVD/Blu-ray as it’s really worth a watch. So thanks again Michael for egging me on to watch it! 😀

Sunday

Roman Holiday (1953)

Well, talk about a perfect note to end my week-long holiday… I rewatched Roman Holiday for perhaps the fifth time. Oh my, its charm and lovely-ness never ceases to amaze me. One day I’ll write a special appreciation post for that timeless film… but this time I just want to take the time to say a little something about hat pitch-perfect final scene, nary a fairy tale ending in sight.

I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.
~ Princess Anne

A lesser film would’ve ended with Princess Anne rushing out in haste, forgoing her royal duties to spend another day, a lifetime, with that irresistibly handsome newspaperman Joe Bradley. Yes that is what Joe desperately hopes for, and what WE the audience wants to have happened. Little did we know that director William Wyler will have none of that. So we wait… just as Joe waits for the palatial room to clear out. But he soon realizes she’s not coming out, so with a heavy heart he starts walking (that walk alone demands its own blog post, but that’s for another time). As he passes the two guards, he still takes a glimpse towards the stage once more. Empty. The music swells up, forcing us to realize they’re never going to see each other again. Joe keeps on walking towards the camera and disappears, carrying the memory of that day in Rome that he too will cherish for as long as he lives.

Woof! It’s a sobering finale… but one that I too, will cherish for as long as I can remember!


Well, that’s it folks. So what did YOU watch this past weekend?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Happening, This Is It, The Matrix

It’s quite an eclectic weekend, movie viewing-wise. Friday night we saw The Happening and This Is It back to back and The Matrix just an hour before the Oscars begun. Why these three, you asked? Well, if you must know, after seeing Unbreakable, arguably M. Night Shyamalan’s best work, my husband and I got curious to check out his supposedly worst movie. Well, actually this one now tied with The Last Airbender as that’s the second M. Night’s movie to clean up The Razzies (you can see the full winners here).

So anyway, here’s my mini reviews of all three:

The Happening (2008)

Well I guess all those critics and the average moviegoers are in agreement with this one. But to M Night’s credit, I thought the premise was intriguing enough, which was why we were willing to give it a shot to begin with. It starts out incredibly intriguing as a mystifying epidemic suddenly strikes Central Park. Regular folks doing what they normally do in the park—reading a book, walking the dog, etc.—abruptly starting to commit suicide. One gruesome incident after another is shown, much to the horror to the people next to them, but only long enough until they themselves starting to do the exact same thing. Mark Wahlberg is a high school science teacher in Pennsylvania, and as soon as news of this catastrophe hit his town, he and his wife (Zooey Deschanel) must do whatever it takes to survive it.

I must admit this film does pack quite a bit of suspense. In the Special Features, M. Night said he set out to create ‘the best B-movie horror thriller’ and to a degree he does achieve that sense of dread, but the inept acting and lack of coherent plot just lessen its impact. Let’s start with the acting first. Now, I like Wahlberg as much as the next guy and he does convey a nice guy ‘everyman’ vibe in this one, not the usual brooding, intense action hero type. But for some reason, I feel like he’s not quite engaged nor convincing in the role of a man in peril. The sense of desperation just isn’t there. The wide-eyed Deschanel is in the same camp, devoid of much emotion even during the supposedly tender scenes with Wahlberg. Note to miss Zooey, looking terrified requires a bit more than a blank stare. It doesn’t help that the script never quite give us a good reason to care for either one of them. I think the only one I kinda feel sorry for is little girl of Wahlberg’s BFF (played by the usually-watchable John Leguizamo) that the couple is left with.

In the end though, I think the biggest beef for me is how much this movie fails to live up to all the build up. Basically the overall theme is ‘what if nature suddenly fights back?’ as the terrorism theory was debunked early on. In a not-too-subtle way, we’re told that we deserve this as we’ve been so irresponsible in taking care of our planet. Ok, so it’s a horror flick with a ‘green’ message, yet it never really get into much depth. Instead, the filmmaker is more concerned about paying homage to classic fright fest where the ‘evil’ never really goes away and in the end, the horror starts over again in a different time and different place. Perhaps M. Night is attempting to pay homage to the classic thriller The Birds for which no explanation was provided for the birds’ attack, but one thing for sure, M. Night is no Hitchcock.

1.5 out of 5 reels


This Is It (2009)

I actually got the 3D-enhanced Blu-ray as part of the purchase of the SONY HDTV a couple of months ago (we also got the animated feature BOLT but can’t watch it yet without the 3D add-on). This Is It is basically a compilation of interviews, rehearsals and backstage footage of Michael Jackson as he prepared for his series of sold-out shows in London. It starts out with interviews of the dancers auditioning for the tour and what MJ meant to them, which is an emotional segment of the piece.

Watching it is a bit bittersweet for me. I mean, he seemed to relish being on stage and doing what he loved. I mean, to call him a musical (and dance) genius is not hyperbolic at all, he is brimming with so much talent that’s still tough to match even today. It’s heartbreaking that he died so suddenly and the world would never see the spectacular efforts that he and his team put together here… Y’know all those reports/rumors that he was nervous about the tour and all that, after seeing this I thought, ‘Rubbish! He’s the KING of Pop, this man is born to perform!’ If the rehearsals were already this good, I can’t imagine what the live performance would be like.

It certainly was fun reminiscing on his past hit songs — Bad, Thriller, Smooth Criminal, etc. — they’re all still so catchy and timeless. Watching this definitely made me appreciate him so much more as an artist, it’s apparent his team of musicians and dancers revered him as they too stood in awe when he performed solo. Even at almost 50 years old, he was still at the top of his game and as nimble as ever in his dance moves alongside people half his age!

At the same time, we also see the diva-like attitude which is to be expected from stars of his caliber, it’s quite interesting to see how patient his choreographer Kenny Ortega was throughout the whole thing. If you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend it. Even if you weren’t a fan of MJ (but really, who wasn’t?), you’d appreciate the level of artistry and creativity this man had and be entertained by all the song/dance sequences.

4 out of 5 reels


The Matrix (1999)

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Keanu Reeves’ old movies lately… The Replacements, Speed, and now this (I just bumped Constantine further up my Netflix queue). I’ve always liked him, though not necessarily his movies (i.e. The Lake House, sorry Ross!), but The Matrix is one that made him a superstar and I could see why.

I can’t quite recall when exactly I saw The Matrix, but I know I was hugely impressed by it, even if I thought the overly-philosophical storyline was more of a head-scratching variety. Now over a decade later, when tons of movies have copied it left and right (especially the signature slo-mo action style that’s been done to death as Castor pointed out as cliches that should be banned from cinema), I have a new appreciation for this movie.

Reeves plays Thomas Anderson, a.k.a Neo, a man living two lives as a computer programmer by day, and a sly hacker by night. When suddenly he’s contacted by a group led by Morpheus, he learns that the truth of his existence stretched beyond anything he’s ever thought or imagined. The storyline might not feel as ‘fresh’ as it did originally, but overall this movie holds up really well. Sure, the technology is now dated (especially the cell phones!), but not the concept. People will always be fascinated by an idea that asks, ‘what is reality?’ ‘What if everything we see day in and day out and the world as we know it is nothing more than an illusion that we’ve been blinded from seeing?’ It’s certainly a thought-provoking premise and the Wachoski’s brothers’ direction set the bar for a sci-fi action movies since.

The main strength of the movie is obviously the visual effects, there are lots of ‘whoa!’ moments from the innovative action sequences. They’re not just cool, they’re iconic, hence the countless imitation. But yet, I don’t see this as a ‘style over substance’ kind of movie. There are themes of self sacrifice, honesty, loyalty, betrayal, love, and ultimately hope that are weaved throughout.

The acting is great all around as well. I realize Keanu isn’t the most expressive actors out there, but he’s just downright perfect for the flawed hero Neo. I can’t imagine anybody else more suitable in that role. He’s supported by an excellent cast: Aussie thespian Hugo Weaving is phenomenal as the relentless Agent Smith (one of the greatest movie villains IMO), Laurence Fisburne is charismatic as Morpheus, and Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and Marcus Chong as Morpheus’ cohorts are all compelling in their roles.

I find this a bit more satisfying than Inception that I just re-watched recently, which also deals with the theme of alternate reality. It remains to be seen if that Chris Nolan film will become a classic, but The Matrix sure is one. It’s rewarding upon repeated viewings as well, so I’m glad I own the Blu-ray. Too bad the sequels don’t live up to the original, but fortunately I skipped the third one and can’t really remember if I had seen the second.

4.5 out of 5 reels


What movie(s) did you end up seeing this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these, I’d love to hear what you think.