27 June 2013

Much Ado about Nothing 2013

Much Ado about Nothing 2013
  • Director: Joss Whedon
  • Based on the play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson, Emma Bates
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Amy Acker – Catch Me If You Can
    • Reed Diamond – Good Night and Good Luck, Spiderman 2, Homicide Life on the Streets,
    • Clark Gregg – Thor, In Good Company, The Human Stain, State and Main, The Usual Suspects
    • Fran Kranz – Matchstick Men, Donnie Darko
    • Spencer Treat Clark – Mystic River, Gladiator
    • Riki Lindhome – The Big Bang Theory, Changeling, Million Dollar Baby
    • Ashley Johnson – The Help, Roswell, Anywhere but Here
  • Why seen: Shakespeare, Barbican, London
  • Seen: June 15, 2013 with Hal at the Barbican in London


Seeing a new Shakespeare movie the day after its official UK release, in the Barbican Cinema 2, in a rain-drenched London – can movie blogging get any better?
Well, actually a little, yes.  You see, after walking back to our side of the Thames in the now sunny London I’m handwriting this review with a pen bearing the text “To Be or Not to Be” bought yesterday at the Globe Shop. That’s cool, isn’t it?
I had seen on the IMDb that the movie was coming. It was just luck that it was now. And we’re here.
I love the movie. It’s a straightforward adaption of Shakespeare. The play is moved to today’s America in some California-type wealthy setting – a big sprawling house with lots of stairs and a swimming pool.  The cast are all naturals. Shakespeare flows out of their mouths as if that’s how they and we talk all the time.
The quirkiness is brilliant. All the macho talk takes place in small girly bedrooms with cute stuffed animals and frilly pillows.  Claudio in snorkel and swimming goggles is informed by Don John and his two cohorts in the pool – four bodiless heads bobbing in the water – of Don Pedro’s supposed betrayal with Hero.  The two scenes where Beatrice and Benedick hear their friends talking about their love for one another are hilarious. Beatrice scrambling on her hands and knees to hide under a kitchen counter is priceless.
The drama and pain are believable and gripping. The photography is beautiful. Making a black and white film in the second decade of the 21st century is a radical move. It works a treat.  Two striking scenes: the acrobats swooping around high above the party (from their perspective) and the memorial procession for Hero.
Comparisons to Branagh’s version are inevitable. Branagh and Thompson can never be equaled and the lavish sumptuousness and energy of the 1993 production is one of a kind. But this 2013 version certainly holds its own in its black and white opulence of down home (wealthy style) lavishness, after-party kitchen chaos and all.
In a long line of Shakespeare movies it’s right there at the top.



5 * of 5

10 June 2013

Happy birthday, dear Movie Blog

Happy three-month birthday, dear Movie Blog!  And congratulations on getting caught up with the back log of movies.  The 81st movie, Skin, was posted on Saturday, June 8.  Today, The Great Gatsby, seen yesterday, was posted.
The response so far has in some ways been surprising.  Without doing any advertising except by sending the link to some friends and the followers of Shakespeare Calling, about fifteen hundred visits have been registered from:
Argentina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
China
France
Germany
Malaysia
Norway
Pakistan
Russia
Serbia
South Korea
Sweden
Taiwan
The Netherlands
The Philippines
The UK
The Ukraine
The US
Turkey
Vietnam

The top five countries are:
                      Sweden (many of the visits are mine, as I post reviews), the US, Bulgaria, Germany, the UK, followed closely by Russia and the Ukraine.

My question is how do you all find the blog? What did you search on to get here?  I’m really curious. If you read this, please leave a comment telling me.

Statistics on the posts read are also surprising.  One of the most obscure films, at least one I had never heard of, Life Above All, is by far the leader with over a hundred visits.  Who are you all, and how and why did you visit this particular post? Please leave a comment!

The other four on the top five are: The Intro, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Hamlet (Almereyda 2000), Twelfth Night (1988 Branagh).  All of the Hamlet related movies are near the top of the list. That makes my Shakespearean alter ego happy!

There are two things I hope for in the future of the blog:
  1. More comments! They don’t have to be long or analytical (although that’s great too) but responses and debates and disagreements are always fun.
  2. More followers. Unfortunately it seems one must have a Gmail address to become part of the “circle” but that’s easily done if you don’t mind having still another mail address.


For now, thanks to you all who have visited the blog and commented on the movies reviewed here. I’m looking forward to your continued interest!



The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby 2013
  • Director: Baz Luhrman
  • Based on the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Debicki, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Leonardo DiCaprio – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo and Juliet, Marvin’s Room, Titanic, The Beach, The Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, Shutter Island, Inception
    • Carey Mulligan – An Education, Public Enemies, Never Let Me Go
    • Tobey Maguire – The Ice Storm, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Pleasantville, Cider House Rules, Spiderman
    • Joel Edgerton – Ned Kelly, The Night We Called It a Day
  • Why seen: Baz Luhrman, read-book-see-film
  • Seen: June 9, 2013 with Hal, YW, IA, B-IS, ÖB, and KW at a movie theater in Stockholm


When we saw a trailer for this film a couple of months ago I thought, “Why is Luhrman doing this?! Why isn’t he doing another Shakespeare?!”
I have spent much of my book-reading life resisting reading this classic, for some reason. But when both YW and IA said it’s one of their favorite novels I said, “OK! OK! I’ll read it!” Both Hal and I did.  And…we have to admit, it’s a good book.
But reports on the movie have been very mixed. We were curious, to say the least, to see how we’d react. 
Well.
The reactions were, in this group, and in me, just as mixed as the reports.
Loud, is one word that comes to mind.  Extreme, is another. Extravagant. In your face. Off the wall. If the book has an almost minimalist feel in the pared down sparseness of the literary style, the movie is what you could call maximalist. Somehow, that works just fine.
But I simply can’t decide if I like the movie or not. It has a very similar feel to Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet, which I love. It’s perfect.  And I can see how Luhrman wanted this classic story to work in the same way. It does. It does.  And yet.
DiCaprio was great as Romeo.  Is he great as Gatsby? I don’t know. Carey Mulligan was superb in Never Let Me Go.  Is she right for the role of Daisy? I don’t know.
Does the music work? Yes. Compellingly so. As in Romeo and Juliet the aggressively modern music is a part of making the story timeless and connected to no specific era.
The heartlessness, the decadence, the sickening wastefulness of the rich and the emptiness of their lives are made painfully clear.
More adjectives: dashing, exuberant, opulent. Breathtaking.
Relentless.
Is it a movie to be seen again? Definitely.
Is it a movie to love? I don’t think so.  Not yet, anyway. Maybe next time.

3 * of 5? 4* of 5? Something like that.


8 June 2013

Skin

Skin 2008
  • Director: Anthony Fabian
  • Based on the book  When She Was White by Judith Stone
  • Cast: Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige, Ella Ramangwane
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Sophie Okonedo – The Slap, Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things, Go Now
    • Sam Neill -  Little Fish, The Dish, Jurassic Park, The Piano
  • Why bought: Cheap. Sophie Okonedo
  • Seen: June 2, 2013


Genetics is fascinating and sometimes mysterious. In a racist society it can be dangerous and heartbreaking.  In South Africa’s apartheid it surpasses absurd.
Sandie is born to white parents.  She is, though not extremely dark, clearly black.  Her mother accepts her lovingly without too much question.  Her father insists fanatically, relentlessly, that she is white, going through all kinds of rigmarole in the bizarre South African courts to get the word “white” stamped on her papers.  He is, in fact, as racist as the rest and can never quite let go of the niggling suspicion that his wife has been unfaithful with a black man. Until, perhaps, their third child is also a light-skinned black baby.  Recessive genes, explains the scientist at one of the hearings. All whites in South Africa have them, he says.  Not a popular claim.
Young Sandie is forced to go to an all white school though of course she is ostracized and hated. She is forced by her father to date white boys who treat her with contempt. It’s no surprise that she falls in love with a black neighbor. When she becomes pregnant she is thrown out of her home and joins her man in his township. From a white petit bourgeois family she becomes part of a black South African ghetto.
The years pass, the heartache and alienation continue.  Sandie is always an outsider.
Sophie Okonedo is a powerful actress. The whole case is strong.  The film gives an excellent insight into the absurdity of apartheid in everyday situations where explosive hateful racism is always present.
It’s a difficult film to watch. But also very gripping.  See it.


5 * of 5


Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister 2005
  • Director: Anjelica Huston
  • Based on book  by Rachel Simon
  • Cast: Rosie O’Donnell, Andie MacDowell, Richard T. Jones, DW Moffat, Roberta Maxwell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Rosie O’Donnell – Wide Awake, Beautiful Girls, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own
    • Andie MacDowell -  Tara Road, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Groundhog Day, Sex Lies & Video Tapes
    • Richard T. Jones   Moonlight Mile, Kiss the Girls
    • DW Moffat – Traffic
    • Roberta Maxwell – Brokeback Mountain, Dead Man Walking, Philadelphia
  • Why bought: Cheap, I guess. And I like busses.
  • Seen: May 31, 2013


If I’d noticed this was a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I would have been prepared for the sugary greeting card feel to this movie but I didn’t so I wasn’t.
The subject is worthy. Of course we should treat every individual with respect, no matter how “different” (the word used in the movie) he/she is and this person should of course have as decent a life as possible. I suppose the sad fact that this isn’t the case makes a movie like this necessary.
But oh, the clichés! Neurotic, selfish, rich fashion photographer sister Rachel is forced (why not the brother??) into dealing with obnoxious steamroller “different” sister Beth when their father dies. Rachel discovers that 1) Beth is known and beloved by all the ordinary folks she meets on her daily bus rides including the simple, good-hearted movie star handsome bus driver Rick, and 2) love and having a baby is more important than an all-consuming career.
Of course said career becomes a great success when Rachel’s photos of Beth and friends are exhibited in a classy New York gallery.
This is supposedly based on a true story but I’m sure there are plenty of true stories out there about siblings who aren’t rich and fashionable and neurotic who are just trying to get on with their low-paying jobs, or their jobs in which they are already trying to help people in trouble, and have to deal with a situation like this. I’d rather see a movie about that. Or just watch Rain Man again.
This one is not a keeper.



1* of 5

Big Fish

Big Fish 2003
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Based on book  by Daniel Wallace
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Helena Bonham Carter, Jessica Lange, Marion Cotillard, Steve Buscemi
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Ewan McGregor – The Ghost Writer, The Island, Star Wars, Moulin Rouge, Young Adam, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave
    • Albert Finney -  The Bourne Ultimatum, A Good Year, Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Breakfast of Champions, Cold Lazarus, Miller’s Crossing, Tom Jones
    • Billy Crudup   Public Enemies, Almost Famous
    • Helena Bonham Carter – Terminator 4 Salvation, Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Howards End, Les Misérables
    • Jessica Lange – Broken Flowers, Titus, A Thousand Acres, Sweet Dreams, Frances, Tootsie, The Postman Always Rings Twice
    • Marion Cotillard – Nine, Inception, La vie en rose, Public Enemies, A Good Year
    • Steve Buscemi – Paris je t’aime, The Sopranos, Romance & Cigarettes, The Island, Twenty-Eight Days, The Big Lebowski, Kansas City, Fargo, Living in Oblivion, Billy Bathgate, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs
  • Why bought: Ewan McGregor, Helena Bonham-Carter, Tim Burton
  • Seen: Twice. First time a couple of years ago. Now: May 26, 2013


It turned out to be a bit of a tearjerker in spite of myself.  It’s a charming movie and Ewan McGregor is a sweetheart. Not exactly believable (and I don’t mean the unlikely adventures) but a lovable sweetheart.
His older self in the form of Albert Finney is harder to take.  I sympathize with son Billy Crudup. Finney would drive me crazy too if he was my blabbery story-telling father.  The lovey-dovieness between Finney and Lange is a bit hard to take too.  Helena Bonham-Carter is surprisingly lay-back in this role; good as always but not as outstanding as usual.
But it’s a fun story with a lot of more or less impossible adventures involving more or less unlikely oddball characters that in the end seem to have actually happened with real life oddball people.
There is a moral here, at least one has the slightly annoying feeling throughout the film that there is – but I’m not sure what it is.  Sons, believe in your fathers? I hope not. Everyone, believe in the unlikely? Better.  Believe in the power of story-telling? Better still. I’ll take that one. But a grip on reality is nice too.


3* of 5


6 June 2013

Out of the Ashes

Out of the Ashes 2003
  • Director: Joseph Sargent
  • Based on book: by Gisella Perl
  • Cast: Christine Lahti, Bruce Davison, Jonathan Cake, Jessica Beitchman, Zoie Palmer, Beau Bridges
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Christine Lahti – Smart People, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, My First Mister (director plus street scene extra), Leaving Normal, Running on Empty, Housekeeping, Swing Shift
    • Bruce Davison – X-men
    • Jonathan Cake – Extras, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Cold Lazarus
    • Beau Bridges – The Fabulous Baker Boys, Norma Rae, various old TV series
  • Why bought: Christine Lahti, history (WWII)
  • Seen: May 9, 2013 (appropriate date – 68 year anniversary of end of WWII in Europe)


The subject has always fascinated me – morbidly perhaps but World War II and the Holocaust are still close to us.  Christine Lahti is a superb actress and she really delivers here as Gisella Perl, a Hungarian doctor who survived Auschwitz. The movie is based on her book about how she later applied for US citizenship and had to defend herself for some of the things she had done in order to survive.  The film presents the story in a series of flashbacks, contrasting Perl’s charming bourgeois pre-war life with the hell of Auschwitz and the bustle of wealthy post-war New York.
Lahti is powerful but the film is just too pat. It does bring up important moral questions and Lahti manages to portray a somewhat complex character but most of the rest of the cast can’t do much with their cardboard characters.
For younger people who are just starting to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust it could be interesting and it does serve to show that nobody is a saint when forced into a dehumanizing situation. It’s worth seeing as part of keeping this dreadful part of 20th century history alive. Lest we forget.



2 ½ * of 5

School of Rock

School of Rock
  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Rebecca Brown, Aleisha Allen, Robert Tsai, Kevin Alexander Clark, Maryam Hassan, Caitlin Hale
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jack Black – Be Kind Rewind, Margot at the Wedding, The Holiday, Tenacious D, King Kong, High Fidelity, Cradle Will Rock, Mars Attacks!, Dead Man Walking
    • Joan Cusack – High Fidelity, Runaway Bride, Cradle Will Rock, Grosse Pont Blank, Corinna Corinna, Working Girl, Married to the Mob
    • Mike White – The Good Girl
  • Why bought: fun movie
  • Seen: Two or three times. This time: May 5, 2013 with Hal and his sister AS


We didn’t plan on watching this next after High Fidelity but it was chosen by my 75-year-old visiting sister-in-law because it’s one of her favorites. OK by us! It’s been on our see-again-soon shelf for quite awhile.
I’m a sucker for: 1) movies about music, 2) movies about teachers, 3) movies about kids who are losers, get inspired and pull together to achieve the impossible, 4) Jack Black.
The role was created by Mike White who evidently knows Jack Black well. Nobody else could have done the obnoxious slobby loser rock freak with a heart of gold to perfection like Jack Black.
It’s fun to see Joan Cusack as a rigid hung-up school principal who conceals a rock chick beneath her strict gray suit.
The kids are outstanding as poor little rich kids repressed by their overachieving parents turned let-‘em-loose rockers by Jack Black’s iconoclastic teaching methods.
It’s completely unbelievable, filled with clichés, by-the-numbers predictable, and he didn’t ask Katie (Rebecca Brown), the bassist, to play a solo over the rolling credits (all the others got to). 
But it’s great fun.  And it’s obvious that they’re all having a ball making the movie.  That carries them a long way.

3 ½ * of 5


High Fidelity

High Fidelity 2000
  • Director: Stephen Frears
  • Based on book by Nick Hornby
  • Cast: John Cusack, Iben Hjeljle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim Robbins, Lily Taylor
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • John Cusack  2012, Serendipity, 1408, Being John Malkovich, The Cradle Will Rock, The Thin Red Line, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Grosse Point Blank
    • Iben Hjejle – Defiance, The Marriage of Gustave III (Swedish TV series)
    • Todd Louiso – Scent of a Woman, Billy Bathgate
    • Jack Black – Be Kind Rewind, Margot at the Wedding, The Holiday, Tenacious D, King Kong, School of Rock, Cradle Will Rock, Mars Attacks!, Dead Man Walking
    • Joan Cusack – School of Rock, Runaway Bride, Cradle Will Rock, Grosse Pont Blank, Corinna Corinna, Working Girl, Married to the Mob
    • Lisa Bonet – The Cosby Show
    • Catherine Zeta-Jones - Intolerable Cruelty, Chicago, Traffic
    • Tim Robbins – War of the Worlds, Mystic River, The Shawshank Redemption, Jungle Fever, Bull Durham
    • Lily Taylor – Six Feet Under, Public Enemies, A Slipping Down Life, I Shot Andy Warhol, Arizona Dream, Born on the Fourth of July, The Addiction
  • Why bought: John Cusack, Nick Hornby’s book
  • Seen: Twice. This time: April 28, 2013 with Hal and YW (read-book-see-movie club)

       If Nick Hornby hadn’t written the book and John Cusack hadn’t played Rob, both book and movie would probably have been unbearably annoying. As it was, neither Hal nor YW liked the book. I did. Yes, Rob is pathetic, neurotic, totally irritating and I’m certainly glad he’s not my boyfriend but I feel sorry for him, can relate to his music nerdiness – I too love pop/rock music, I too love to make lists – and in spite of it all he’s quite likeable.
John Cusack eliminates many of Rob’s most irritating hang-ups – leaving plenty! – and creates a character that surely all young men unsure of their gender role can relate to and all of us women can say, “Does stuff like that really bother these poor guys?”
In fact John Cusack is perfect, as he so often is. Joan Cusack, his sister, in her small role is too.  Iben Hjejle as Laura is as well. Jack Black is too. In other words they all get it just right.  Tim Robbins is brilliant as the awful New Age understanding boyfriend – a good addition; he was quite anonymous in the book.
It’s not a spectacular movie but it offers insights. It translates well into American, as most British and European books/movies do not.  The music is good throughout and obnoxious Jack Black pulling an obnoxious Andrew Strong by belting out an impressive Marvin Gaye song á la The Commitments at the end is not really a surprise but fun to see.
It’s a feel-bad-feel-good movie and the cameo of Bruce Springsteen giving Rob advice doesn’t hurt.
  
3 ½ * of 5




In Good Company

In Good Company 2004
  • Director: Paul Weitz
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Philip Baker Hall
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Dennis Quaid  Smart People, American Dreamz, Caveman, Far from Heaven, Great Balls of Fire, Day After Tomorrow
    • Topher Grace – Mona Lisa Smile
    • Scarlett Johansson – He’s Just Not that into You, The Island, Love Song for Bobby Long, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Lost in Translation, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Manny & Lo
    • Marg Helgenberger – Erin Brockovich
    • David Paymer – State and Main, Amistad, Get Shorty, Quiz Show, Cagney and Lacey
    • Philip Baker Hall – The Zodiac, Bruce Almighty, Dogville, Cradle Will Rock
  • Why bought: cheap. 3 * in Maltin. Scarlett Johansson
  • Seen: April 19, 2013

  
What an awful job.  What a stupid system. How can we get rid of it, corporate globalism? Profits above all. People are expendable.
This movie is a comedy. It’s very funny.  It’s also a tragedy. More than the movie makers themselves realize.  The happy ending in which the old guys who had gotten fired by the young hotshot get their jobs back because an even more enormous global corporation buys the one recently bought by…(you get the picture)…is tragic because these old guys are happy to be back in the system that got rid of them, and they think they’ve won.
I would really really hate working in that world.  But people do – lots of people – and it’s the world that runs the rest of us. How depressing.
But it’s a lovely movie. Topher Grace is a vulnerable, endearing, bumbling, caffeine/endorphin-addicted twenty-six-year-old hot shot corporate rising start who fires the fifty-somethings left and right with hardly a second thought and he is simply terrific. He should have gotten an Oscar. Scarlett Johansson is always good and I just realized in this movie what an incredibly rich voice she has.
Best scene: Topher Grace, having just been promoted big time in the corporate jungle, buys an electric blue Porsche, drives it out of the car lot and gets run into by another car. I laughed out loud at that one. I am not a car lover.
Good movie. Good Friday evening fare.  Maltin was about right.
  
3* of 5


Fifth Element

The Fifth Element 1997
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Bruce Willis  Tears of the Sun, Friends, Sixth Sense, Breakfast of Champions, Twelve Monkeys, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, In Country, Moonrise Kingdom
    • Gary Oldman - Harry Potter, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Sid and Nancy, Léon, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Bok of Eli, The Dark Knight, The Scarlet Letter, Immortal Beloved, Romeo Is Bleeding, True Romance, Dracula, Prick Up Your Ears, Nil by Mouth (director)
    • Ian Holm - lots of Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, Day After Tomorrow, From Hell, The Fifth Element and more
    • Milla Jovovich – Jeanne d’Arc
    • Chris Tucker – Dead Presidents
  • Why bought: suggested by friend ÖB. Luc Besson. Gary Oldman
  • Seen: April 13, 2013

  
Luc Besson is usually not silly.  Weird, yes. Over the top, yes.  Often extremely exciting. Nikita is one of the most exciting movies I’ve ever seen and Léon is both exciting and rather touching.
But The Fifth Element is…silly. I was expecting a grim destroyed future sci-fi.  I got a comic book.
Now I don’t really have anything against comic books. As a kid, I loved them.  Evidently Besson did too. Maltin tells us Besson got this idea as a teenager. And that’s the whole thing.  This movie is juvenile.
And it’s kind of cute. There are some fantastic special effects, for example the flying cars zooming back and forth in countless levels among enormous skyscrapers. The apartment – well, box – that Bruce Willis lives in is tiny but very efficient with fold-ups and shove-ins and automatic thisses and thats. Home delivery takes on a new meaning when the whole Thai restaurant comes to an opening in the wall to prepare and serve your food.
Milla Jovavich is fun as the scrawny spritely orange-haired savior of the Universe who speaks her ancient language as fluently as we speak our own more Earthly tongues. Impressive.
Gary Oldman – well, he can do anything and he’s an appropriate bad guy here but not nearly as freaky as he was in Léon.
The story hardly needs to be told here. An ancient battle between us good guys and the ugly clumsy dumb aliens. The destruction of the Universe.  Guess who wins with one second to spare.
There are quite a few laughs, it’s very colorful and Besson and the cast seem to be having a lot of fun.  If you’re in the mood for goofy and not expecting grim it’s perfectly OK.

2 ½* of 5.


4 June 2013

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights 2010
  • Director: Andrea Arnold
  • Based on novel by Emily Brontë
  • Cast: James Howson, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Kaya Scodelario, Steve Evets, James Northcote, Nichola Burley
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Kaya Scodelario  Moon
    • Steve Evets – Pirates of the Caribbean, Robin Hood, Brighton Rock
  • Why bought: A favorite book; have read it four or five times
  • Seen: April 7, 2013, with Hal and YW (read-book-watch-movie)

  
There certainly was a lot of discussion after this one.    Throughout the movie we sat more or less stunned the whole time.  What? What is this? Where is the passion?
The question remains. And the question: Is this really Wuthering Heights?
Well, kind of.  But it’s very…different.  It’s low-key, quiet, contemplative. And muddy.  I’ve never seen so much mud in a movie.  Very realistic.
But “low-key”, “quiet”, “contemplative” and “realistic” are hardly words one connects to this the most romantic and dramatic of all gothic classics.  Where is the bitterness? Where are the tortured cries of anguish?
Yes, Heathcliff sobs enough to break your heart when Cathy dies and is handsome enough to make any heart throb a bit. He’s dignified, collected, quick to fight back, but he’s not savage, volcanic or cruel like he is in the book. And Cathy’s not manipulative, greedy or wild, like she is in the book.
So is the movie totally wrong?  Not really.  It’s very daring. The changes made to increase the role of racism in the treatment of an Afro Heathcliff are changes of degree rather than essence and work very well with the spirit of the novel.  It’s a pity the movie stopped before Cathy Junior and the other second generation kids grew up but that’s OK too.
Once again it’s a case of the book is the book and the movie is the movie. As a movie a major problem is that much of it is so dark it’s impossible to see what we’re looking at. And there was - dare I say it? – too much nature.
But a gripping movie and well acted by an essentially unknown cast.  I want to see it again.


3 ½ * of 5


Terminator 4 Salvation

Terminator 4: Salvation 2009
  • Director: McG
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham-Carter, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Christian Bale – Branagh’s Henry V, Batman, Equilibrium, Public Enemies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Velvet Goldmine, Little Women, Swing Kids
    • Sam Worthngton  Avatar
    • Helena Bonham-Carter – Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Howards End, Les Misérables
    • Bryce Dallas Howard – The Help, Manderlay, As You Like It
    • Jane Alexander – The Sunshine State, Cider House Rules, Playing for Time, Kramer vs Kramer
  • Why bought: End (?) of the saga
  • Seen: April 5, 2013

  
Helena Bonham-Carter is a toned down villain.  She plays a small part and does it well, of course. Dallas Bryce Howard isn’t given much of a role and is hardly recognizable. Christian Bale? He does his job but Batman is more fun.  These are the three I know and love (or at least like a lot).  What are they doing in this movie?
Yes, it was a bit exciting and yes, it’s fun to see how it all started.  But even in the destruction after Judgment Day they can’t resist long boring car/truck/motorcycle chases with lots of shooting and explosions and big fires.
The banal love story between the damsel in distress (even though she’s a tough, kick-ass pilot) and the softy macho-man-with-a-human-heart is s-o-o-o-o gender stereotypical! Bo-o-o-ring!
The story is muddled and hard to figure out.  Without having seen the first three, I don’t know how much sense it would have made.  And why did the machines take human prisoners instead of killing them?
The best part was when Arnold Schwarzenegger suddenly popped up and wandered through the destruction in his own Terminator way.   Who would have ever believed I’d be happy to see Arnold Schwarzenegger?!
It’s not a bad movie as far as sci-fi disaster future destroyed world movies go but it doesn’t hold up to 1 and 2.  Arnold and Linda, I miss you.
  
2* of 5


Les Misérables

Les Misérables 2012
  • Director: Tom Hooper
  • Based on book: by Victor Hugo
  • Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Hugh Jackman  X-Men, Australia, The Fountain, Kate and Leopold
    • Russell Crowe  Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Robin Hood, A Good Year
    • Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married, Alice in Wonderland, Brokeback Mountain, Ella Enchanted
    • Amanda Seyfried – Mamma Mia
    • Sacha Baron Cohen – Sweeny Todd
    • Helena Bonham Carter - Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Howards End
    • Eddie Redmayne – Elizabeth the Golden Age
  • Why? I like musicals, the book and the other versions.
  • Seen: March 31, 2013 with H, ÖB and B-IS.


Very impressive! What scenography! What undreamed of power in the voices of Hathaway and Crowe! Three out of the four of us sniffled all the way through the last hour or so.
So yes, I liked this movie.  Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway are magnificent. It is a delight, as always, to see and hear Helena Bonham-Carter. No one can do nasty like she can and the songs she and Cohen do are funny.  Samantha Barks as Éponine doing the rain song is beautiful and heartbreaking. The opening scene with the convicts pulling the ship, the mountain views, the panorama of Paris from the roof tops, the final scene of the ghosts of the revolutions and the thousands to come rising up on the barricades – vive la révolution!
Only, sadly, that’s not what they were singing. They were singing about heaven and God. Oh why did they have to ruin it like that? Sure, people tended to still be believers back then but much of the French Revolution(s) – this one was in 1832 but there was another one coming right around the corner in 1848 – was/were about liberation from the tyranny of the church along with the fight against class inequality and poverty. So this powerful, stirring final scene loses much of the meaning that the film has built up.
There are other problems. Music has to be heard several times and strangely I have never heard anything at all from this musical. This will only get better, of course, when I watch the movie again (and I will) but I like musicals with specific songs – not opera where everything is sung, much of it just la-la-la between the real songs. Our friends, B-I and Ö, who themselves have worked with musicals, say that in the stage productions there’s talking, not singing, between the songs. The movie would have been better if this choice had been made.
Another problem is that Hugh Jackman’s songs are boring and at times bordering on the pathetic (not his fault probably). It was, however, fun to see him in his non-Wolverine, non-Australia role.
A third problem – Amanda Seyfried.  Sorry, I’ve never seen her in a role I like. Her voice is too shrill, her sweetness is too sweet, her in-loveness is too wimpy. So it was in Mamma Mia, so it is here.
Some of this criticism will disappear when I’ve seen it a few times.  Much of it will not.
The good stuff is very good indeed and gets 10 * of 10. But the bad stuff drags it down. Altogether?

3* of 5.

Iron Sky

Iron Sky 2012
  • Director: Timo Vuorensola
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Julia Dietz, Christopher Kirby, Göta Otto, Udo Kier, Peta Sargeant, Stephanie Paul
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Christopher Kirby  Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolution
    • Udo Kier  Melancholia, Manderlay, Modigliani, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, Johnny Mnemomic. My Own Private Idaho
  • Why bought: Good reviews. Sounded good. Was going to buy it but borrowed it from ÖB and B-IS.
  • Seen: March 29, 2013


Any movie that pokes fun of Nazism, racism, sexism, patriotism, imperialism and war should be good.
This movie does it all. But isn’t.
The story: In 1945 the Nazis fled to the moon and on its dark side built up a new society under a new fuehrer. A black American astronaut shows up.  The Nazis attack.  The US president, a woman, appoints her fashion designer, a woman, as war minister. War breaks out. Black astronaut and white Nazi schoolteacher fall in love (she learns the error of her ways). Lots of people get killed. A big chunk of the moon is blasted out of existence. The end.
Is it a comedy? Yes, but only slightly funny.  A satire? Yes, but never quite on target. Sci-fi? Oh yes, lots of space ships and things.  I slept through the battles.
Maybe I just don’t get Finnish humor. The movie was a conglomeration effort of film makers, financiers and actors from Finland, Sweden, and all kinds of other strange places. I really wanted to like it.
It gets one point for the concept and one point for the effort (and I can be a little patriotic at times when Sweden is involved) =
  

2* of 5