Uma!

One of the most under-rated actresses as far as I’m concerned, to me Uma Thurman is not only talented and incredibly beautiful, but has compelling movie star charisma that firmly puts her in ‘screen goddess‘ league. (Writing that reminds me that I once read her parents had named her after a Hindu goddess). Others like Angela Bassett and Sharon Stone come to mind when I think of this league; actresses who don’t seem to be as celebrated as they deserve to be, including by getting more roles of their calibre.

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These two DVDs of Kill Bill vol.1 and vol.2 were bought together in Italy years ago.

I just had so much fun watching Kill Bill, both volume one and two, yet again. For maybe the fifth or tenth time, I don’t remember. Every time I watch these films or Pulp Fiction, I wish the director Quentin Tarantino would write more roles for Uma. When working with him, she shines even more than usual. He really brings out a special sparkle from her.

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Here’s a scene from one of her more recent films, Bel Ami (2012), courtesy of the YouTube user behind the channel RobPattzNews.

I found to my delight the movie is available in its entirety on YouTube! Thanks to Nona Khaled. The bonus is that it stars two other talented actresses I’ve always enjoyed watching, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas. Looks like I’ll be watching it later in bed. Link here.

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Related: Empire Online – 40 Great Actor & Director Collaborations in Movies

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This post is Day 9 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: merrily entertained

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Not the ending I was hoping for, but I still liked it.

I came across this short (7 minute) film from Australia via Gaybros.

The ending left me scratching my head. It’s kinda silly, I thought. Okay, it didn’t have to have a predictable happy ending or anything saccharine sweet, but the one featured here left me all “huh… what?“. If the filmmaker was making some social commentary thing or some other point, it just zoomed straight by simple ole’ me.

Warning: hairy man ass shot towards the end at 6:41. A bit too fleeting with its one-second or so appearance.

What I liked about it: 1. The actors were adorable, in a scruffy derpy way. Goodlooking and funny, now that’s a combination that’s always a major turn-on. 2. The story except for the ending. It’s hilarious and entertaining.

There seems to be some outrage and unhappiness as part of its reception. I’ve read someone opined that it promotes transphobia and homophobia. Frankly I don’t agree with that. If anything, I thought the short film shows acceptance of transgenders, by storytelling the idea that attraction ultimately crosses even gender. Pete eventually is still attracted to Harry. Attracted to him as a individual person, regardless of what Harry has between his legs now.

You Can’t Curry Love

I love this short Indian gay film I came across on YouTube. It’s sweet and earnest and joyful. The actors are so handsome and appealing, meaning the two leads as well as the guy playing the boss back in London. The leads are just the kind of guys that turn me on the most; everyday dudes. Well of course they are way cuter than everyday guys, but what I mean is that they are not effeminate, but not superbutch either, just regular guys-next-door.

Posted in May last year by the filmmaker Reid Waterer himself, it now has got more than 2.2 million views. The film is just about 23 minutes long. I think it’s quite wonderful how just perfectly compact it is, managing a decent enough storyline with great pacing, and featuring interesting set locations. And a great promo for Indian tourism, as it features so many inviting scenes without being an outright advert, yet more than enough to whet my appetite and whisper into my ear teasingly, “Hmm… you know you want to go to India at least once in your life, someday soon.

Below is a still I’ve captured of one of the set locations. I think it is a museum. I’m trying to find out what it is called. Because I love the tile work and the inscription work on the walls so much. And of course an indoor courtyard (with a soothingly trickling fountain) is a glorious thing. So elegant, kind of decadent but not overtly so, and to me there is something so incredibly sensuous about it. I think I’ve seen something similar in pictures of a place in Granada, Spain. I can’t catch its name (or perhaps era) that the character Sunil mentioned, only that it is of the 14th century.

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Clicking this image leads directly to its scene in the movie on YouTube.

Gay Muslim movie ‘Naz + Maalik’ raising funds for post-production

They are doing so via Kickstarter. Click here to learn more about the campaign.

The movie by American production company Pecking Wilds is set in Brooklyn, New York City. A description from their Kickstarter page:

NAZ + MAALIK, an independent film 

A decade into the War on Terror, two first-generation Muslim teens – friends, classmates, business partners, lovers – spend their Friday hustling the streets of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. While deciding whether to tell their community about their homosexuality, Naz and Maalik’s ambiguous and secretive relationship unknowingly sets an FBI agent on their trail. As the agent grows convinced that the boys are engaged in “violent radicalism,” her pursuit becomes increasingly menacing and the stakes surrounding the boys’ hapless hustling and lies grow. What began as a struggle to protect their sexual identities evolves into a crisis much larger – a fight to stay alive.

I first read about the movie via the Facebook page Muslims Against Homophobia and LGBT Hate.

That led me to a Huffington Post article by Yasmine Hafiz, who wrote that the movie is by director Jay Dockendorf. After hearing about the FBI’s programme of secret spying on mosques in Brooklyn, Jay wanted to speak on this issue via a movie that tells the story of how two closeted Muslim teens are affected by FBI surveillance.

Yasmine also wrote:

Dockendorf was appalled by NYPD and FBI tactics, which cast suspicion on perfectly innocent groups of people without cause. He says, “Mosques and prayer and devotion and love are beautiful things. Per NYPD rules, though, a business can be labeled a location of concern if police can expect to find groups of Middle Easterners there.”

“Mosque-goers are not committing a crime. How can you not take issue with the government spying on its own people just because they’re praying in a mosque?” he asks.

… Though the American Muslim community is becoming increasingly diverse, the problem of ignorance and bigotry towards Islam is still an issue. In that sense, American Muslims share a history of prejudice with the black and gay communities, which all intersect in this film.

“The film considers Islamophobia through the lens of homophobia and homophobia through the lens of racism,” comments Dockendorf. “I know they’re very separate issues, but for some people, real people on whom these characters are based, they’re completely linked and the balance is delicate. “

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Image by Pecking Wilds / Jay Dockendorf. From kickstarter.com. Click to go there.

Related:

Ender’s Game

I’ve never heard of Ender’s Game before until recently. When I was at the cinema last Friday, I saw it was being shown, and vaguely remembered a trailer with Harrison Ford in a science fiction action movie. Based on that, I decided to see it. It turned out to be a story more for kids. Halfway through it, I was like, “Oh no, that’s it? Kids playing video games? Oh shit.”

Well, not just any kids and not just any video games. These are kids recruited by the army to learn and master war games to lead a pre-emptive attack on aliens. Not by actually physically getting into battleships but by commanding the attack from the control station. They play a lot of games to prepare, both video and a futuristic version of paintball conducted in a zero-gravity hall.

So, definitely a movie targeted to kids up till age 15, maybe. I imagine their faces in the theatre glowing with pride and happiness, watching a movie about another kid saving humanity with his video game skills, as they vow to spend even many more hours playing video games when they get home after the movie.

I can’t hate the movie though because it’s such a visual treat. I enjoyed the special effects.

Harrison Ford is wasted as a doting-grandfather version of a kind and understanding colonel. Viola Davis‘s talent is even more wasted as his Major Anderson. She was mostly just standing around looking gorgeous as she expressed compassion via how the kids are just kids and they shouldn’t be pushed too hard. Sir Ben Kingsley has an interesting role as a tough half-Maori mentor, but again, wasted as well, this time both actor and role.

Fortunately the lead actor Asa Butterfield was a very capable anchor for the movie. The 16-year-old did an excellent job portraying Ender Wiggin, a complex character: a young boy who is brilliant and savvy in handling his opponents but at the same time emotionally sensitive and troubled.

So Asa’s work and his role are two things I like about Ender’s Game besides the special effects. I also like it’s anti-war message, especially for a movie targeted to kids. The fifth thing I like is how the movie squeezes in even more diversity by having one of the good-guy supporting characters, Alai, wish Ender with ‘Assalamualaikum. Peace be upon you‘. Not only that, but in another scene Ender greets Alai with ‘Salam‘ as well. That was totally unexpected (I have not read the book), and I thought it was a sweet gesture for the movie to include this.

The sixth thing I like is that there’s no huge cliffhanger ending to irritate me. Yes, there’s an opening at the end for the story to continue, but the ending of the movie itself has a pretty decent closure.

My favourite parts of the movie though are the scenes involving bullying. A relevant topic that is a hot-button issue in these times. The scenes are harrowing but compelling, thought-provoking and heartbreaking. To me they can also serve to inspire kids in the audience to stand up to bullies, and that’s such a wonderful thing.

Mambo Italiano

A full gay movie on YouTube! I’m always happy to come across any full movie there. But a gay movie, in it’s entirety! That’s even more of a treat, because it’s not like they are shown in the theatres or available in DVD rental shops here. And the best part is that there seem to be quite a lot. I can’t wait to watch more.

Mambo Italiano (2003) is a Canadian release shot in Montreal. A family drama-comedy which features the coming-out tale of the protagonist Angelo Barberini. Angelo upsets his traditional Italian-immigrant parents by moving out of the family home, and then shocks them further by coming out as gay. On top of that he needs to cope with a boyfriend who refuses to accept he’s gay.

I enjoyed it, even though I don’t think of it as a good movie. Even for a comedy some of the dialogue and the characters seem exaggerated, like they’re really pushing for Italian stereotypes when it comes to many of the supporting characters. Some parts of the movie are actually annoying. But there are also funny moments which cracked me up, and the leading actor Luke Kirby is engaging in his role, not to mention handsome. Plus there is Paul Sorvino, an actor I like, in the role of Angelo’s dad Gino.

While watching this, I couldn’t help but think of his other Italian family comedy, Love Is All There Is (1996), which also stars the then teenage Angelina Jolie as his daughter. That was a riot of a comedy, really fun and entertaining.

Riddick was disappointing

I say it was disappointing not flippantly but with a sigh and a heavy heart, and for two reasons. Firstly because Vin Diesel is sexier than ever. That guy is seriously smolderingly hot. *stops typing for a while to fan myself*. I don’t believe I ever found Sylvester Stallone so attractive, even though they are similar in two ways: their deep gruff voices and the macho way they speak, and of course their buff bods. But there’s just something about Vin that’s just, sigh, whatta man. Okay enough drooling.

Secondly, I so loved the first two movies of the Riddick series, which are Pitch Black (2000) and The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), so I was pretty stunned at how so-so this third one was.

Pitch Black is a science fiction horror that scared me out of my wits, and had me at the edge of my cinema seat rooting like crazy for the characters involved, especially the one so memorably played by Australian actress Radha Mitchell. Raw and tinged with a noir feel, the special effects though impressive is not the main or only draw, unlike so many special effects movies. Pitch Black is packed solid with a great storyline and memorable characters, brilliantly played.

The second movie The Chronicles is so different, a far more opulent affair due to its storyline that involved the advanced but brutal military nation of Necromongers and the production sets of their home Helion Prime. Way more lavish with far more fancy effects, yet it also offers a great storyline and characters, so it was a very entertaining ride. Then there were the two captivating British actresses to add even more sparkle: the always-magnificent Judi Dench who blessed the movie with her regal presence in the cameo role of the ethereal Aereon, and Thandie Newton who shone in the sultry and evil (and fun to watch because it’s a bit campy) role of Dame Vaako.

So I was really looking forward to Riddick. It started off promisingly, picking up from where The Chronicles left off in Helion Prime, and I was happy. I loved the visual treats of that place and now I could look forward to see how it pans out for Riddick there. But very quickly the plot turns to him being abandoned and roughing it out battling creatures in some desolate planet. So I thought, hmmm okay, so this goes back more to the style of the first movie Pitch Black. But unfortunately Riddick is nowhere near the gripping and engrossing cinematic thriller that Pitch Black is. After it became apparent he was stuck on that planet, the movie practically screeched to a halt, and things were boring after that for me. It became one of those special effects movies I hate: undeniably beautiful with impressive CGI so it’s nice to look at, but otherwise there’s little or nothing else. I wish this movie was never made. To me it tarnishes the series because the first two movies were so good.

I liked the design and movement of the scorpion-like creatures he battled with. I thought it was exciting and scary. A lot better than the one in Prometheus (2012) which wasn’t a good movie either, (in fact to me it’s like Riddick: beautiful but unremarkable) the creature there was an alien snake that’s like half-penis and half-vagina. I know that sounds crazy and too disturbing to visualise so have a look here at minute 1:57 of this video. It doesn’t look obscene; just silly.

One character I disliked in Riddick is Santana, the head of the gang of bounty hunters that arrived on the planet looking to capture Riddick. I thought he was badly played. A quick check at IMDB shows the actor is Spanish Jordi Mollà, said to be a talented and respected actor so perhaps it is just a really bad case of miscasting. The monologue bit he did soon after arriving on the planet, where he pompously calls out to Riddick to show himself is just awkward.

I was excited to see Katee Sackhoff, who I loved as Starbuck in the TV series Battlestar Galactica (2005-2009), one of the most under-rated TV series of all time and as far as I’m concerned, a masterpiece deserving cult status way up there with the likes of Twin Peaks. Here she plays Dahl, a member of a group of professional merceneries who are also seeking to capture Riddick. Seeing her in a tough kick-ass character not unlike Starbuck makes me realise I really miss Battlestar Galactica. That left a hole in my heart when it ended.

Elysium was amazing

I really enjoyed Elysium which I caught earlier today. The title refers to the outer space habitat populated only by the wealthy elite. They enjoy luxurious living conditions that resemble those previously found on Earth, except that now in the year 2154, Earth is totally ravaged and polluted and fit only for the poor masses, and they are kept there with the use of a robot police force. The privileged have retreated to live in their space station with its sprawling mansions and lawns. A distinct feature of their households is a sleek MRI scanner-type pod that cures any disease, which is what protagonist Max desperately needs to get to after an accident at the factory where he works.

Matt Damon is excellent as the lead Max here. He’s a great actor and brings out layers in his characters when given roles he could flesh out, like this one which he makes into much more than just ‘action hero’. I like this kind of leading man in action movies: more ordinary guy living an ordinary existence rather than some suave or ultra-butch superfit guy with fantastic fighting skills. Matt plays the former really well. Even when he was the spy Jason Bourne in the Bourne trilogy, he had this winsome guy-next-door quality. Even a spy character so well-trained that he could elude his masters came across as somewhat warm and grounded.

It’s great that a movie with an interesting lead also has an interesting and unconventional villain character. The über-talented Jodie Foster plays Delacourt, the defense secretary of Elysium, and was as fun to watch as other actresses in action-movie-villain roles such as Joan Allen in Death Race (2008) and Charlotte Rampling in (many movies including) Babylon A.D. (2008). Delacourt is evil alright, but leans more towards ruthless executive than mindless psycho, with her smart suits, sleek hairdo and a pragmatic and no-nonsense attitude. She’s like a real estate agent or CEO type who, in addition to bossing people around and generally being a corporate bitch, had to also blow things up and kill people because it’s just part of her job. There’s some French dialogue in her first appearance, which reminds me of the first time I heard Jodie speak the language so fluently, in the incredibly beautiful French movie A Very Long Engagement (2004). If that’s not impressive already, the American actress also speaks Italian, German and Spanish.

Other memorable perfomers: South African actor with the fantastic name Sharlto Copley as the violent hired killer Kruger, who looks gross and unwashed with bad teeth, yet also hot in a dirty sexy way. Sharlto makes me think of actors like Vincent Cassel and Tim Roth, actors who not only excel in playing villains but inject tons of delicious sex appeal in their evil characters. Then there’s Brazilian actor Wagner Moura who also stands out in his role of Spider, the commander and brains behind the resistance on Earth who could offer Max a way to get to Elysium. The talented and charismatic Mexican actor Diego Luna is terribly underused as the street-smart but sweet and sensitive Julio, Max’s BFF. I wish there were more scenes of him. He’s such a sexy hippie here, so totally adorable.

The production design is breathtaking, especially that of the space station Elysium, as the trailer video above illustrates. I like the movie a lot. It’s a great sci-fi thriller, fast paced with heart-thumping action. The bits of sentimentality sewn in to tug at the heartstrings was a bit eyeroll-inducing, like the little girl with leukemia telling Max a fairytale story about some water hippo and whatever. I should think the living conditions of the people on Earth, (actually we see just Los Angeles, but I guess in this movie it represents the whole planet) and the struggles of Max in his daily life would elicit enough empathy from the audience, so the drama from the sweet poor-thing little girl, and yet another one in a separate scene, this time in crutches even, were totally unnecessary. But it doesn’t spoil the movie much. Still a great one I really enjoyed.

Pacific Rim was fun

I caught the movie last week. I had thought it was going to be a Transformers kind of movie because of the giant machines going into battle, and in some ways it was. It was very noisy and hectic in some parts. Sometimes I don’t know what the heck was going on during the fight scenes because they were so busy with so many things going on. But although a tad too deafening for my taste even for the genre (Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is my idea of the perfect adventure sci-fi film) I found it entertaining, overall. I wasn’t mad like I was after watching the last Transformers, thinking to myself “what the f**k was that all about, just a lot of noise, I want my two hours back, blah blah blah.” I think what made Pacific Rim far better was the characters who were actually quite compelling considering it was an action movie. Probably because it was helmed by Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican director who also directed the masterpieces Pan’s Labyrinth and the two Hellboy movies. Those were great. They also feature monster characters, his trademark. Pacific Rim has monster creations and action sequences like no other of his previous movies I think, yet there was room too for greatly and sensitively drawn characters that you can root for.

Set in the near future in the 2020s, colossal alien creatures have risen up from a portal in the Pacific Ocean to destroy our world. We learn to fight back by building Jaegers, which are war machines just as gigantic. Each of this machine is manned by two pilots, whose minds are linked so that they can operate the machines, which are massive and require the mental capacity of more than one pilot. But over the years the monsters, named Kaiju, attack more frequently and evolve to be more destructive, destroying many of our Jaegers. Governments decide to halt the Jaeger project and turn to building massive coastal walls to protect the cities from the onslaught of attacks. The commander of the Jaeger project knows this is futile and comes up with a plan to use the remaining Jaegers to destroy the Kaiju at the source, the portal in the ocean.

The characters were all engaging and well played. And international. I love it that the female lead was Japanese for no reason, and not an ornamental love interest. Mako is an interesting character who wasn’t overtly sexy running around in revealing outfits, but wasn’t over-compensating by being all butch or tomboy either, just because she was a strong female as a pilot.  She’s still attractive and feminine, and this character is deep and carries emotional baggage from what happened to her family when she was a kid, and keen to prove herself in the battlefield. I thought it was an excellent character both in its creation by Del Toro and how it was brought to life by Rinko Kikuchi.

The hero role was played by Charlie Hunnam. I enjoyed his performance and the eye candy his gorgeousness presented. The mentor role of Commander Pentecost was black British, played really well by Idris Elba both as a strict commander and a loving father figure to one of the characters. And there was an Australian pair of father-son soldiers (another interesting angle for characters), one of whom serves an antagonist role. These were well done too. Another pair of soldiers are Russian. Although their roles are small, they add a bit more colour and interest to the movie. The comic relief from the two mad scientists wasn’t very funny to me, so I guess they were the only letdown character-wise. Even then their characters are original. Usually the brainy character who helps out with the technical aspect of the adventure is just one person. Here there are two, and they somewhat complement each other like a yin-yang thing.  And finally, to see Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman was so cool. It’s quite startling to realise I’ve liked his work since his Beauty and the Beast t.v. show. So that means I’ve been a fan for about a quarter of a century, wow. Here he plays the shady character of a black market dealer in the body parts of slain Kaiju.

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Rinko Kikuchi, by Marco Albanese, via RanZag on Wikipedia. Click to go to source.

James Gandolfini

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James Joseph Gandolfini, Jr. (1961-2013). Actor. Photo from taniaonthescene.com. Click to go there.

Aaarrgghh I can’t believe he has already passed away. He was only 51. Nooooooooooo…

Of course I loved him as Tony in the six seasons of The Sopranos, and he was amazing in so many other roles, but my favourite by him was Winston, the gay assassin in the adventure-rom-com The Mexican (2001). The leads of that movie were great too. Julia Roberts was a fun hysterical riot to watch and Brad Pitt was funny as well. But James was riveting, as usual. He was always brilliant and charismatic and an absolute joy to watch, made more remarkable by the fact that his performances are always so quiet and dignified.

The character Winston Baldry was an amazing creation in itself. A gay role that was so unlike typically portrayed in movies, but James breathed life into it as only he could. Some roles, like Tony Soprano, are played so perfectly that you’re just convinced they are truly meant for the actors that played them, that no other actor can play them as well.

My heart goes out to his family. His baby girl is only 8 months old.

A beautiful tribute to James here on Vulture.com by Matt Zoller Seitz.

And this great video tribute by movieclipsTRAILERS.