Favorites of the Year 2015: Movies, Series, Books & Talents

It’s that time of the year where I share my favorite everything. Without further ado, here they are!

Happy New Year!

Movies

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Scene from a Movie

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Everything that involves Luis telling a story about something somebody said! (And pretty much all of Michael Peña’s scenes in Ant-Man.)

Also: EVERYTHING in Mad Max: Fury Road but especially the final chase sequence that ends with Immortan Joe’s death; the Ares III Crew’s rescue of Mark Watney with that near miss at the end; Bing Bong’s disappearance in Inside Out; the ‘head popping’ scene in Kingsman; Thomas the Tank Engine’s cameo in Ant-Man; old Sherlock Holmes’ break down in Mr. Holmes‘ most emotional scene; Tom Hardy fighting Tom Hardy in Legend!

Series

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Last year Fargo was my top favorite TV series. This year, it’s my favorite series on TV as well. The second season of Fargo is, in fact, much crazier and more violent than the the first season with the same level of script cleverness from the writers and acting brilliance from the cast. The one area where it’s better than the first season is the soundtrack. Also, it’s proving to be a show driven by amazing female performers: Alison Tolman won the first season for me, now it’s Kirsten Dunst’s turn. Her character is annoying (you wish you could just stab her repeatedly) but Miss Dunst just SHINES in this role. All the awards (again)!

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My absolute favorite web series, Sense8 was worth all the effort I made to watch it. All the characters are interesting, although not too developed that there’s no room for them to grow. In fact, the main attraction of the show is to see how the eight of them grew into their own skin after the troubles they faced. The number of characters also mean that some of them aren’t as prominent as the others but the concept is mind-blowing and the execution is flawless. Plus, it has a great opening credits and shiver-inducing music. Perfect.

Also: Marvel’s Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, London Spy, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Hannibal series finale, Wolf Hall, How to Get Away with Murder, Jekyll and Hyde, Poldark, Grimm, Galavant, Blindspot, Broadchurch and Quantico!

Books


I spent the entire year reading Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicle (with fear and trepidation from all the horror). But reading the book successfully erased my severe disappointment with the movie version. Despite that, I still use the still from the movie to illustrate my love for this series because without that disappointment, I wouldn’t have been driven to read the entire series. Book reviews are available at Bookerie.


I don’t usually listen to audiobooks but this one is one of my favorites this year. OBVIOUSLY. 🙂

And the rest…

Talent Interview

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Obviously this year is a FANTASTIC year in terms of interviewing talents. Pixar’s Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen come to mind, and Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar and the cast of Halfworlds as well. But of course the best was getting to talk to Mads Mikkelsen and Richard Armitage for the last season of Hannibal. The best of them all, however, was Mr. George Miller – director of my favorite movie of 2015 Mad Max: Fury Road – by phone. He indulged me for a 45-minute conversation and answered all of my ridiculous questions (because I’m a Mad Max novice!) He was very, very friendly and nice and articulate. I love these great taltens and I love my job.

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Crimson Peak

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Last week I went to a press screening of Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro’s latest that he always calls “not a horror story but a Gothic romance.”

I doubt anyone who’s never read a single page of Jane Eyre will truly get what that description means. It’s also possible that anyone who ever DID read Jane Eyre might not get what he means by that until they see the movie with their own eyes.

Del Toro made Crimson Peak based on his love of horror, fairy tales and Gothic stories. He went at length describing the differences, according to himself, between these ‘genres’ and how he wanted to mix everything to create a world similar to those from the stories he loved.

“I like how similar fairytales and gothic tales are. There is in fact a fairy tale called Bluebeard’s Wives that is very similar to the tale of Crimson Peak. There is a gothic tale called Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu that is comparable too.

Fairy tales, gothic tales and horror are three forms of literature that are very closely related, but they’re not the same. You can have the most horrifying fairy tale and yet some elements define it as a fairy tale, mostly the whimsicality and the fact that the agency is supernatural in a non Judeo-Christian way. It’s elemental- a fairy, a dwarf, an ogre etc. Most of the time, the gothic tale involves romance. And by romance, I don’t just mean a love story, but a longing for a past that is very poetic. Horror always has elements that are different from the other two.

My inspiration was thinking, ‘Can I make a movie that is a mixture of all these things that I love?’”

A lot of titles were mentioned in the press when he taled about Crimson Peak. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (the Hitchcock film version is one of his favorites’) and Wuthering Heights came up a few times, as well as Jane Eyre and Uncle Silas. He also mentioned paintings by Caspar David Friedrich and John Atkinson Grimshaw, as well as ‘Deborah Kerr’s dress from The Innocents‘. If you know what these are, and can imagine them being mixed together with ghastly looking creatures that haunt the corridors at night, then you’ve pretty much managed to picture Crimson Peak inside your head. Continue reading

Moviegoing 101: Behave Yourself!

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This week I had two bad experiences watching TV in the cinema and both of them had to do with other people’s behavior (or misbehavior) during the movie.

Manners, people, please have them.

On Wednesday, I went to watch Michael Mann’s Blackhat with a friend. We both knew that we were going to be slightly late because we had an appointment with someone else so when we got tickets we made sure to get seats next to the aisle. That way we won’t have to disturb other people’s viewing by trying to get into our chairs in the middle or the end of the row. Nothing is more annoying than people coming in late and trying to squeeze their way in between your knees and the chair in front of you, hitting your bag, stepping on your toes, blocking your vision and loudly saying, “Sorry!” (Or worse, not apologizing at all, which has happened several times!) in the middle of a scene in the movie.

We went in a few minutes late and quickly located our seats. When we got there, there were plastics of food (Shin Lin chicken, the Taiwanese snack, which was so very pungent with all the spices it had on the slab of meat) and handbags on our chairs. When it was obvious that we were going to sit there the people on the two seats next to us immediately cleaned their crap out but my friend’s mood was ruined. I remained calm for a while longer… until these people continued to eat in LOUD noise. Quite honestly, it was disgusting. I have nothing against eating food inside a cinema, but as a rule, I expect those foods to be eaten with mouth closed. It’s utterly disgusting to hear people chewing loudly and talking with food inside their mouths. And these people did exactly just that with that chicken.

During the course of the movie, these people not only ate in a really appalling manner, then proceeded to loudly exclaim and interject comments at every single scene they saw. “Oh look! Chris Hemsworth is in prison!” “Wow, Korea looks dirty… what? Koreatown is not in Korea? Where is then?” “That’s Indonesian dialogue!” “where is this in Jakarta?” “Her make-up makes her look like a ghost!” and so on, all the way throughout the movie until the end. Also, one of them kept checking their smart phones with glaring LCD display, hurting our eyes in the middle of the darkness of the cinema. My friend went, “Could you please turn that off? The light is very distracting.” All she got was a giggling response, “Oh, the movie’s about to finish anyway.” Which is not the point, you rude and mannerless heathen. 

The exact same thing happened at another screening the next day. On Thursday, I went to watch The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death. I expected a noisy cinema – it is a horror movie, after all, and people tend to get shrieky during horror movies, myself included – but I never expected to see or hear people eating a goddamn box of rice (or whatever it was that smelled like a goddamned Padang restaurant, complete with yet again the pungent smell of spices) AND CRACKERS. Yes, they were eating crispy crackers and didn’t bother masking the sound. If you’re ever going to eat something inside a cinema, couldn’t you stick to popcorn and/or nachos? Really.

Those were the people two seats over. The person to the seat right next to mine? Kept turning on his phone and checking messages during scary scenes. Dude, if you know you’re going to be scared inside a horror movie, close your damn eyes.

These incidents got me thinking. They happen so often that I suspect that the majority of people I meet in cinemas really have no basic concept of etiquette. I’m not even being condescending because it just seems like they really have no clue. I’m not expecting people to be all prim and proper as they do at a formal dinner party or anything like that but some things are just so simple that to ignore them or comply with them just show how much of an idiot they are.

1. Be on time.

We have only 3 cinema chains in Indonesia: XXI, Blitz and Cinemaxx.
The time printed on the ticket in XXI Cinema is usually the time the movie starts. They open their door to the screening studio at least 10 minutes before the movie starts. So if you have your ticket, you should know to get into the room before the time printed on your ticket. They also have PA system where they announce door opening and movie starting times. How and why you can be late with the movies with this system, I have no idea.

The time printed on the ticket in Blitz Megaplex is usually the time the door to the screening studio opened. You get another 10-15 minutes (or even longer) to wait inside and watch the trailers and commercials before the movie starts. Blitz Megaplex (or at least the ones in Grand Indonesia and Pacific Place) don’t have announcements from the PA system. You have to manage your own time when watching a movie at Blitz but now that you know this – because I just told you – it’s supposed to be simple to do.

I know nothing about Cinemaxx so anyone who wants to enlighten me, feel free.

2. Be quiet.

Pretty sure people are not supposed to talk inside the screening studios. All cinemas usually warn you of this on their big screens before the movie starts. If you can’t pay attention, then you’re an idiot.
‘Being quiet’ means not only trying to keep your voice low when you address people inside the studio, whether to excuse yourself when you’re going to squeeze yourselves to get to your seat or when you’re asking anyone a question. Reacting to a movie itself by laughing, sobbing, shouting or shrieking might be acceptable to a certain point but, no, people generally don’t need to hear you pointing out what’s happening in every single scene. You think Chris Hemsworth is hot as a convincted prisoner in jail? Fine. Keep your admiration down to a sigh. Just stop making any loud noises that will disturb people.

3. Don’t discuss a movie DURING the movie.

This happens a lot, too. It’s bad enough when people react to certain scenes in a grandiose way, it’s even worse when you hear an actual conversation being carried out during the movie. I’ve lost count of how many times I hear people asking their friends/dates/family members to explain a plot point or what was happening during a scene. It’s so ridiculous that it should be illegal.

You don’t know what an Orc is? Go out and read a J.R.R. Tolkien book before you buy a ticket to The Hobbit. You don’t know what happened to Tony Stark in The Avengers? There are DVDs. You don’t know what a robot is? You poor thing; please open Wikipedia. You don’t know English and the subtitles are not helping you? Don’t watch Hollywood movies and stick to Indonesian films. But please stop asking someone else to explain all these things to you while they – and the rest of the world – are trying to watch something. 

If you happen to be the person someone is asking to explain stuff like these to them, please refrain from launching into a half an hour lecture during a movie just to impress them. Your date is not likely to comprehend your inoheren explanation and the people you’re sitting next to definitely won’t be impressed.

4. Sit on your own seats.

When you buy movie tickets in Indonesian cinemas, you get assigned a seat number. Stick to it. I don’t care if it seems like nobody is coming when the studio lights are dimming and the opening credits are rolling. You bought tickets with seat numbers on it, that’s where you should sit. You don’t sit on seats whose numbers are not printed on your tickets, and then question or complain to the people who do have those seat numbers printed on your ticket.

5. Eat lightly.

Close your mouth when you chew. Popcorn/nachos/chocolate bars/small fried stuff are acceptable, but NOT anything fragrant with spices. NOT crispy cracker stuff. NOT steak or soup or cereal or whatnot that require proper cutleries. And, again, chew with your lips sealed, mouths closed and all that.

6. Lay down your phones and watch.

I don’t understand people’s obsessive need to turn on their phones during a movie. If you’re going to be busy checking your messages, emails and social media accounts, then what the hell are you doing watching a movie in the first place? Unless you’re checking the time because you don’t own a watch, you should NOT be opening your phone inside a movie studio when the movie is playing.

Not putting your phone on silent mode during a movie is not acceptable. Taking calls during a movie is also not acceptable. Playing a game or Tweeting or using social media during a movie inside the studio is not acceptable. At all.

7. Don’t get angry when people remind you to do the stuff listed above.

It’s never nice to be reminded of your shortcomings by people, especially when they act all superior towards you, but the fact is: if you inconvenience people in public places, you’re going to get told off and it’s your own fault. The least THEY can do is be nice and polite to you about it, but if you don’t get their message, don’t blame them for calling you out on it. Most Indonesians are probably too afraid/shy to remind you to stop doing stuff that ruin their movie experience (or they’re clueless about it) but some people WILL. As long as you stop inconveniencing other people, you’ll be okay. Otherwise, these people (like me) won’t hesitate to have you kicked out from the cinema. Believe that.

Favorites of the Year 2014: Movies, TV Series & Books

Every year I make a list of favorite things. It’s fun to review what I watched, listened to, and read all year long… 2014 was a great year of movies and TV series, but not so much with books (although I still managed to come up with a Top 10 list of favorites!)

Here they are, my Favorites of the Year list!

Movies

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Scene from a Movie

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I want you back, Baby Groot!

Also: Tom Hiddleston’s Adam licking blood on a stick; the Society of Crossed Keys helping out M. Gustive; the White Council storming Dol-Guldur in the most BAMF way; and all the way Tom Cruise lives, dies and repeats.

TV Series

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Fargo was the best because watching this limited series of 10 episodes in which the people in it – with the exception of very few – do some incredibly stupid things, every single time, has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my TV watching activity this year. The cast is absolutely stellar (Allison Tolman pretty much wins 2014), not just in reputation but also in performance, and I can barely think of a murder mystery that is so finely done as this one.

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Ripper Street‘s return after its ‘cancellation’ is also exciting. Sorry, Mr. Holmes, but this year I think I like my detectives broody, in awesome hats, and named Bennet Drake, Edmund Reid and Homer Jackson. Plus, this show has Long Susan. That wins the contest from every angle.

AlsoThe Musketeers for all the men and Peter Capaldi in costumes; Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. for Director Coulson; The Strain because it’s from one of my favorite book trilogies; The Fall S2 because Stella Gibson and Paul Spector bring on the creepy all the time; 24: Live Another Day because of the stellar ensemble cast and the addictive feeling it brings; Jane The Virgin for all the hilarity (and the narrator); How To Get Away With Murder because Viola Davis is a goddess; and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey for all the SCIENCE!

Books

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(Bonus point for anyone who can spot the two M/M novels in this list!)

Talent Interview

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Interviewing Viola Davis, Hugh Jackman and James Gunn made my year. Three incredibly talented people who inspired me so much this year. They deserve all of our respect and admiration… I am so proud to call myself their fan.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies – Reaction Post

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

SPOILER WARNING. If you have not watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, please proceed with caution as this entry contains spoilers, or do not proceed to read at all until you’ve watched it.

I watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies today (at a press screening at 9 in the morning. In a cinema out of town. Because they made us. Trust me, I only wake up at 6 o’clock for Peter Jackson.) And here is my ‘reaction post’, which is a fancy phrase to say ‘notes about the movie that are not turned into a review yet.’

Again, the spoiler warning applies. I do not want to be responsible anyone getting spoiled.

If you have no watched the film, the next line is the start of Too Much Information for you.

(And if you scroll all the way down to listen to the sound bites, Richard Armitage’s sound bite may contain spoilers. Martin Freeman’s should be spoiler-free.)

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One Last Time: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies Trailer & Music

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Prepare yourself for the ultimate battle!

It’s going to be a crazy week next week with the premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. So, let’s all just remind ourselves again why this movie is a big deal.

First of all: trailer.

Secondly, it took me more than a month of communications with the people who are publicizing this movie to obtain permission to use many, many pictures for our magazine (All Film; formerly called Total Film, Indonesian edition.) When we finally got them – a few days later than anticipated – they came with the warning of “please increase your security measures for these images because you are being given a large amount of print exclusive pictures”. They absolutely do not want any spoilers getting out… which means, even after that trailer, we should expect more and more details in the film that we have yet to see so far.

Finally, this is it. This is the end. …or not. But it is the end for now. 16 years Peter Jackson has dwelt in the realm of Middle-earth and it is finally coming to an end. Luckily for us, The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings live on discs – several times over, considering how many versions of the movie there are out there – so it’ll be easy for us to revisit them. But never again will we have the excitement of welcoming a new Middle-earth film on our screens. Perhaps not in our lifetime. Which is why no matter what, be it good or bad, to your liking as a fan of the book or not, this third and final Hobbimovie is designed to be memorable. Three hours of battle scenes? Bring it on.

(And I don’t know about you, but I will be bringing a box of tissue to every screening I go to. It’s going to be hard to see certain deaths – not Smaug’s – that are bound to happen, let alone say goodbye to my favorite film series of the last decade and a half.)

I’ll of course be doing my part in order to make sure The Hobbit ends in a bang. I will be posting full transcripts of my magazine’s interview with a couple of The Hobbit actors. And quite possibly, sound bites from said interview. The goal is to promote the film, prepare ourselves for certain plot strands in the film and the enjoyment of hearing and knowing how these actors craft their characters on film.

I end this prelude to the crazy week of reporting and fan-flailing ahead with the tearjerker of a closing song from Billy Boyd, “The Last Goodbye”. (Would you look at that: it’s a Took of an actor singing for a movie whose main character is part-Took!)

Stormy with a chance of horror

The Knick on Cinemax

The Knick on Cinemax

If you’re in Jakarta and you’re looking for something to watch this weekend, and have no idea which movie to choose from, I might be able to help you with that.

First week back to work in the post-Eid holiday, I went to three media screenings. Tuesday was Into The Storm. Wednesday I had Cinemax’s The Knick. Thursday was all about TMNT. (I also finally went ahead and saw Step Up: All In.) Today, Friday, my friends and I went to see Babadook.

Of all these, the first one I would recommend to you would actually be The Knick (see above picture). It’s a TV series, actually, but it was aired in a small cinema so we got to see it in a large screen (which is divine). It’s airing in Indonesia this Saturday, at 9 PM, on Cinemax within 24 hours after its US debut. Despite coming with warnings for triggering issues such as racism and the maximum level of gore, the pilot has great music, is rich in period details and features a wonderful performance by the cast led by Clive Owen and directed by Steven Soderbergh. It is perfect for the stay-at-home-can’t-be-bothered-to-join-the-masses-in-malls type. Television Renaissance, I tell you…

The second best thing I saw at a cinema this week that I would recommend to people would be Into The Storm.

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Everything I said in this reaction post is reason enough to pick this over the rest of this weekend’s releases. Some people are comparing it with Twister (and say that it doesn’t match that old classic – probably because there weren’t enough flying cows in this Steven Quale film) but, well. Twister is not playing in cinemas right now, is it? Disaster films can also be triggering and I imagine people who live in areas in the US that are at risk from such an occurrence might not feel that this is the film for them but the movie itself is relatable, evenly paced and easy to digest.

Here’s also where I confess to something: I almost interviewed Richard Armitage for my article but didn’t.

Into The Storm Article in TFI #57
I ended up getting a generic interview file and worked that out for my piece instead. But I’m still holding out hope that I would get to interview him in person one day. Call me a hopeless optimist but I’ve already interviewed Sarah Wayne Callies (Mr. Armitage’s co-star in Storm)  and Andrew Lincoln (his co-star in Strike Back and her co-star in The Walking Dead), so one day I will. ONE DAY.

On the meantime, I’ll just watch him in the screens.

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