25 November 2013

Hunger Games - Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 2013
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Based on Book: by Suzanna Collins
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth,  Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jennifer Lawrence: Hunger Games, Winters Bone
    • Josh Hutcherson: Hunger Games, The Kids Are All Right, American Splendor
    • Woody Harrelson:  Hunger Games , 2012, Battle in Seattle, No Country for Old Men, Prairie Home Companion, North Country, White Men Can’t Jump
    • Jena Malone: Contact, Into the Wild, The Soloist, Cold Mountain, The United States of Leland, Donnie Darko, Homicide Life on the Streets
    • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Boat that Rocked, Cold Mountain, Punch Drunk Love, Almost Famous, State and Main, Flawless, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Twister, The Scent of a Woman
    • Stanley Tucci: Hunger Games , Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Why bought: the books, of course!
  • Seen: November 23, 2013 at the cinema with Hal, YW and KW

      It’s been a long wait and expectations are high.  The novels are riveting, the first movie a full-pointer.  Will this one hold up?
Yes. It holds up.  From the first frame where we see a troubled Katniss sitting in profile on a rock by a lake to the last where we see her eyes in close up shift from grief to revolutionary resolve, this movie fulfills all expectation.
The contrasts between the luxury train and the militarized slums they speed through, between the starving angry crowds of District 11 and the glitzy fake beauties of the capitol city, are visually spectacular.  Katniss’s swanky wedding dress being transformed into the dramatic black mockingjay dress is beautifully done. Kudos to poor doomed Cinna.
It’s an emotional roller coaster and my first sniffles come with Peeta and Katniss’s tribute to young Ruh. The second come with the three finger salute from Prim and Gale and the other people of District 12 when Catniss and Peeta are once again chosen to compete in the Hunger Games.  The fever of the coming revolution shimmers in the air throughout the whole film.  As well it should.
The only problem with the movie is that it ends.  It’s another long wait for the third part.  Hurry, please!

5 * of  5

PS An added bonus – we see the movie at the cinema housed in the same building where Greta Garbo made her first films.  It’s kind of cool for a movie freak to live a 20 minute walk from Greta Garbo’s first studio!


18 November 2013

Parked

Parked 2010
  • Director: Darragh Byrne
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahlroth, Stuart Graham
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Colm Meaney  The Van, The Commitments, The Snapper, The Last Mohican
    • Colin Morgan – Merlin, Island, and on stage at the Globe Theater in London in June 2013 The Tempest
    • Milka Ahlroth  – She’s been in an awful lot of Finnish films and TV programs but I haven’t seen any of them  
    • Stuart Graham – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hunger, Song for a Raggy Boy, The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins
  • Why? Colin Morgan
  • Seen: November 16, 2013.


       Homelessness. Drug addiction. Loss. Finding your way home. Or not.
       Watching Parked makes me so sad, and I can’t shake the feeling.  Even in the funny parts, in the parts where young Cathal is laughing and goofing around and teaching Fred how to live again, even when Jules is applauding Cathal’s silly singing.
       The three characters have lost their anchoring in life.  Fred, in his late fifties, returning to Ireland from England, has no home and lives in his car.  Young Cathal has lost his mother and though she died from cancer, his father has kicked him out of the house, blaming her death on him and his drug addiction.  Pianist Jules has lost her husband.
       Cathal (pronounced Ca-hal) is an energetic optimist – or actually a speeded junkie – who shows the timid, socially inept Fred how to get the most out of a life that doesn’t have much to offer.  But as Fred starts to get back on his feet and form a friendship with the refined but grieving widow Jules, Cathal is pulled down into the drug world of violence and overdose.  Cathal’s kindness and humor in the face of utter bleakness helps the two older characters find their way home but he can’t help himself.  Fred’s innocence blinds him to the seriousness of his young friend’s drug abuse and he doesn’t even realize that help is needed until it’s too late.
       Colm Meaney is a natural in this role.  It probably is his strongest role, as one of the reviewers quoted on the DVD box said (although my favorite is his Elvis Presley singing Da in The Commitments).  Milka Ahlroth is strong as the widow slowly finding her way back to her music. I hope we see more of this Finnish actress. Stuart Graham delivers as the grieving father who can’t take anymore and ends up with even more to grieve for.
       But it is Colin Morgan who really carries the film. He takes a large step away from his Merlin role here but brings with him the uncanny ability to portray humor and deep-seated pain, often in the same time span of two or three seconds, in his rendering of a young Dubliner drug addict of the 21st century.  It’s an outstanding performance and rates at least a 10 in itself.  It pulls an already strong film up to

5* of 5


PS Two days after watching the film and writing this, it still haunts me.  The rating has risen to 10* of 10.

Don Juan DeMarco

Don Juan DeMarco 1995
  • Director: Jeremy Leven
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway, Geraldine Pailhas, Bob Dishy, Rachel Ticotin, Talisa Soto, Marita Geraghty, Tresa Hughes
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Marlon Brando – Apocolypse, Superman, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Young Lions, Tea House of the August Moon, On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, Julius Caesar
    • Faye Dunaway  – Arizona Dream, Voyage of the Damned, Network, The Towering Inferno, Chinatown, Little Big Man, Bonnie and Clyde
    • Why? Johnny Depp. Tenth movie of JD marathon.
    • Seen: Three times.  Now: November 15, 2013.


      For those of you (us) waiting impatiently for JD to play a romantic lead – oh my goodness. It was so worth waiting for.  The story is so ridiculous it makes Sleeping Beauty look positively realistic but it’s oh so…so…sweet and believable. And funny.  And touching.  And I believe every word that falls from the delectable sultry lusting and loving lips of Don Juan.
       Of course he’s stark raving mad, but who cares?  Certainly not his psychiatrist who gets all fired up in his comfortable aging marriage. Or all the nurses in the mental hospital to which he had been taken as a suicide risk.
       JD is so gorgeous it’s absurd but he’s still his vulnerable Edward Scissorhands/ Gilbert Grape self. The whole film exaggerates gender stereotypes to the point of parody – on purpose I assume – but it’s not offensive, it’s just adorable.
       The truth, when it comes, is a little sad and JD is, if possible, even more gorgeous as a normal kid from Queens.  It should have stopped there.
       But romance triumphs and the film ends on a note that’s just too saccharine.  Actually I don’t like romantic movies.
       But oh, is he gorgeous.
      

3 ½  * of 5

11 November 2013

King Lear (1971)

King Lear 1971
  • Director: Peter Brook
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Paul Scofield, Irene Worth, Susan Engel, Cyril Cusack, Tom Fleming, Anne-Lise Gabold, Ian Hogg, Robert Lloyd, Jack MacGowan, Patrick Magee
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Paul Scofield  Hamlet, Henry V, A Man for All Seasons
    • Irene Worth  Coriolanus
    • Cyril Cusack  – Harold and Maude, My Left Foot, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, The Taming of a Shrew, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Fahrenheit 451
    • Ian Hogg  – Macbeth (BBC), Macbeth (Polanski)
    • Jack MacGowan – The Exorcist, How I Won the War, Doctor Zhivago, Tom Jones, Darby O’Gill and the Little People
    • Patrick Magee - A Clockwork Orange, King Lear (1974 Davenall)
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 10, 2013


      Either hypnotic or just deadly slow, depending on your mood, this is certainly the starkest of the Lear films I’ve seen. It was filmed in Denmark in beautiful black and white, at times by very effective hand held cameras.  Sometimes the characters present their lines in a convincingly normal tone of voice; at times they are theatrical, which works. Or not.
       The costumes are an odd mix of Soviet revolutionaries and peasants, and medieval Sami-Siberian. Like in Ran there is a lot of galloping across fields, only this time in the winter, not the summer.
       An awful lot is cut from the play and the silent movie style text cards that show up now and then don’t help much.
       As with the Olivier version I started out liking this one quite a lot but lost interest during the storm. How can such a dramatic storm be so consistently boring?
       I wish someone would make a really good version of Lear.

2 ½  * of 5
      

        

King Lear (1974)

King Lear 1974
  • Director: Tony Davenall
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Patrick Magee, Patrick Mower, Ann Lynn, Beth Harris, Wendy Allnutt, Robert Coleby. Ronald Radd, Ray Smith, Ellis Jones
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Patrick Magee  A Clockwork Orange, King Lear (Peter Brook version where he plays Cornwall)
    • Ann Lynn  A Shot in the Dark
    • Wendy Allnutt  Oh! What a Lovely War
    • Ray Smith  – A Family at War
    • Ellis Smith – Measure for Measure
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 9, 2013


      A more irritating production is hard to imagine.  From the beginning Lear’s monotonous gravelly voice gets on my nerves as do Cordelia’s big teary brown eyes.
       Essentially the entire cast orate their lines as stiffly and stagily as my sixth-grade theater group, sapping Shakespeare’s eternal drama of all genuine pathos.  Only Edmund and Edgar manage to act like real people at times.
       According to the DVD box this got an Emmy award. I can’t imagine why. I could hardly bear to watch it. If this hammy production was the only Shakespeare I had ever been exposed to, I would be like those who think he is silly, boring, stilted, “naw, never read’m” (to quote my own father).
       It grieves me. I’m sure they were all sincere in their efforts but even their sincerity is stilted.
       I kind of like Edgar here, though, and Kent, whom I never like, is sort of OK, so

1 * of 5
      

        

4 November 2013

King Lear (2008 Nunn McKellan)

King Lear 2008
  • Director: Trevor Nunn and Chris Hunt
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Ian McKellen, William Gaunt, Philip Winchester, Ben Meyjes, Frances Barber, Monica Dolan, Romola Garai, Sylvester McCoy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Ian McKellan  Extras, Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Richard III, The Ballad of Little Jo, Macbeth
    • Frances Barber  Prick Up Your Ears, Friday Night Dinner, Hustle, Twelfth Night
    • Monica Dolan  Never Let Me Go
    • Romola Garai  – As You Like It, Atonement, Inside I’m Dancing, Daniel Deronda
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 3, 2013


      This is such a difficult play to perform that I have to confess I don’t see why directors and actors want to do it. It does have some of Shakespeare’s strongest lines on madness, aging, betrayal, abandonment, familial conflicts, death and meaninglessness. It also has some of his most babbly babble and the most paradoxical and unsatisfactory characters.  Lear is a dreadful person and even at his most pitiful I have a hard time pitying him.  He has been such a tyrant to his daughters that it’s no wonder they turn on him.
Well, this isn’t an analysis of the play itself. I’ll try to do that soon on Shakespeare Calling http://rubyjandshakespearecalling.blogspot.com/ . This is about the film.
                      Ian McKellan is always awesome, both in the original sense and as it is used in the current slang.  This role is no exception. Every line is convincing. He is genuinely cruel, mad and pathetic.
                      The others are more anonymous, but strong enough in their roles.
                      For some reason it’s all set in some kind of 19th century Russia but nothing is really made of it so one has to wonder why.
                      The somber sepia toned scenography is effective. I always like minimalism on stage and I like it in this film a lot.
                      As usual though with Lear, it’s the interpretation of the sisters that’s the real problem.  It starts out strong with Barber showing the grief and hurt caused by Lear’s uncalled for curse against her and it’s almost enough to explain her consequent nastiness. Why Regan is so vicious against Gloucester is not explainable in the play nor is it here but the choice to make her a snide alcoholic doesn’t work for me although Dolan does it well.  The big disappointment is the ridiculous, insultingly stereotypical sex bomb aspects tossed into the sisterly rivalry over Edmund’s love. Or, as the case actually is, his sexual favors.  It just doesn’t work.
                      This is, in other words, more of a mixed bag than Trevor Nunn usually offers. He usually pulls things together to be strong and gripping.  He does so here too but it’s too little and too late. It’s a disappointment in spite of its merits.  But maybe it’s unreasonable of me to expect a movie to make this impossible play work.

2 ¾ * of 5