28 July 2013

My Week with Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn 2011
  • Director: Simon Curtis
  • Based on books: by Colin Clark
  • Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormand, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Derek Jacobi, Geraldine Somerville, Michael Kitchen, Miranda Raison, Tobey Jones, Robert Portal, Philip Jackson, Zoe Wanamaker, Jim Carter, Dominic Cooper
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Michelle Williams – Shutter Island, Brokeback Mountain, The United States of Leland, A Thousand Acres
    • Eddie Redmayne – Les Misérables, Elizabeth the Golden Age
    • Kenneth Branah – everything. Here are a few: Hamlet, Frankenstein, Henry V, Valkyrie, Wallander, Swing Kids, The Boat That Rocked, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rabbit Proof Fence, Shackleton, How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Fortunes of War
    • Julia Ormand – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    • Judi Dench – Hotel Marigold, Cranford, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Ladies in Lavender, The Shipping News, Chocolat, Tea with Mussolini, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown, 84 Charing Cross Road, A Room with a View, Macbeth
    • Emma Watson – the Harry Potter movies
    • Derek Jacobi - I Claudius, Henry V, Hamlet, Hamlet (BBC 1980), Gladiator, The King’s Speech, Gosford Park, Dead Again
    • Geraldine Somerville – Harry’s mother in the Harry Potter movies, Gosford Park
    • Michael Kitchen – Foyle’s War, Oliver Twist, Mrs Dalloway, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear
    • Miranda Raison - Merlin
    • Tobey Jones – Dobby’s voice in the Harry Potter movies, The Hunger Games, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Frost/Nixon, The Mist, Infamous, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Finding Neverland, Ladies in Lavender,
    • Robert Portal – The King’s Speech
    • Philip Jackson – Little Voice, Brassed Off and a lot of British TV series
    • Zoe Wanamaker – the quiddich coach in the Harry Potter movies, David Copperfield, Wilde, Richard III, Othello and a lot of British TV series
    • Jim Carter – Downton Abbey, Shakespeare in Love, Cranford, Modigliani, Ella Enchanted, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Brassed Off, The Madness of King George
    • Dominic Cooper – An Education, Mamma Mia
  • Why? Kenneth Branagh
  • Seen: July 20, 2013

The Marilyn legend continues to fascinate.  This time a based-on-a-memoir film about a gofer on the set of the Monroe-Olivier comedy The Prince and the Showgirl made in the 50’s.  Marilyn is still young and insecure, experienced but never believing she is a good actress.  Larry is an aging actor/producer well aware of his lofty position as one of the best but…aging.
She drives him wild with frustration over her neurotics.  He scares her and tramples on what self-esteem she might have.
It’s a brilliant idea for a movie and somehow their movie gets made.  The story is told by young, innocent, dewy-eyed Colin Clark, well played by Redmayne.
Things could have become sentimental and sensational but this is Branagh. At times it was spooky to see him become Olivier.  Having seen them both in Henry V and Hamlet and vastly preferring Branagh, it is mind-bending to see Branagh’s face become Olivier’s face. How does he do that?
After my first reaction to Michelle Williams – “she doesn’t look like Marilyn!” – I forget that she isn’t and I’m totally convinced.
It’s fun to see other superstars wander in and out of the movie – Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Emma Watson, Michael Kitchen, Jim Carter, Zoe Wanamaker.
Still, in spite of all this, I find myself detached, more admiring the excellence of the movie than being swallowed up by it.  Maybe next time.

3 ½  * of 5

Escape from Planet of the Apes

Escape from the Planet of the Apes 1971
  • Director: Don Taylor
  • Based on characters in the novel by Pierre Boulle
  • Cast: Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braedon, Ricardo Montalban, WilliamWindom
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Roddy McDowell – Overboard, The Poseidon Adventure, Inside Daisy Clover, Cleopatra, The Longest Day, the other Apes films
    • Kim Hunter – the other Ape films
    • Bradford Dillman -  old TV series, I suppose
    • Natalie Trundy – the other Planet of the Apes sequels
    • Eric Braedon – Titanic and old TV series
    • Ricardo Montalban – Sweet Charity and old TV series
    • William Windom – To Kill a Mockingbird and old TV series
  • Why? Part of series
  • Seen: Once or twice back then. Now: July 19, 2013.

Zira and Cornelius have managed to escape from the nuclear destruction of our two-thousand-years-in-the-future-Earth and come back through the same time warp to end up in L.A. in the ‘70’s.
Even within this unlikely scenario – which I can happily accept – the chain of events is awfully contrived, which I can’t.  At times it’s cloyingly sweet and cute, especially when Zira wrinkles her nose and bats her eyelashes.
But there’s something captivating about the movie. It was made in the early 70’s and its tiny hint of feminism seems pathetically trite and obvious to us (I wonder, though, what percentage of today’s husbands actually do 50 % of the housework…) but back then this was probably seen as quite radical, as was having several black actors in roles that had nothing to do with ethnicity (no black actresses though.)
The simplistic but still valid philosophy is also appealing.  Treat strangers with respect, openness and curiosity instead of violence and hatred even if they are talking chimpanzees. Learn to stay no to oppression and to being treated as a pet.  Don’t condemn the enemy for committing the exact same crimes you yourself have committed.
And I was quite impressed with the Shakespearean touch of having the villain speak the words of most wisdom: we can’t wait any longer when the world is threatened by nuclear and environmental disaster.  We must act now.
We should sometimes listen to the villains.
This one is the best Planet of the Apes so far.

2 ¾ * of 5

21 July 2013

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 2011
  • Director: Lasse Hallström
  • Based on book: by Paul Torday
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Tim Mison, Rachel Stirling
  • 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, Train Spotting, Shallow Grave, Big Fish
    • Emily Blunt – Young Victoria, The Jane Austen Book Club, My Summer of Love
    • Kristin Scott Thomas – Sarah’s Key, Nowhere Boy, Il y’a longtemps que je t’aime, Keeping Mum, Gosford Park, The English Patient, Angels and Insects, Richard III, A Handful of Dust
    • Rachel Stirling – Young Victoria
  • Why? Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Seen: July 13, 2013

It is said that movies are not as good as the novels they’re based on.  This is sometimes true. Often they are different but as good.  At times they are better.
This is one of those times.  I found the book somewhat tedious in the second half and the characters a bit uninvolving.
Not so in the movie. It’s warm, it’s funny, it’s moving and sad, even in its feel good ending.
The main reason: McGregor and Scott Thomas.  They’re both among my favorite actors and they seem to be able to play anything. They’re so far removed from Renton in Train Spotting and Queen Anne in Richard III that they could be from different planets.  Here, socially inept fish expert McGregor is funny and endearing, especially when he starts getting passionate about the salmon project and Harriet (Blunt),  Scott Thomas’ bitchy überambitious manic and arrogant press secretary to the Prime Minister is hilarious and an enormous improvement over her male counterpart in the novel. Blunt and Waked are also good as are the others.
The story? Well the title says it all.  How ridiculous can you get? And that’s the whole point. Ridiculous or not – as the likeable sheik well knows – if it’s theoretically possible then it’s possible. The moral could just well be that we have to have faith in science.
I haven’t quite decided what I think of the change from the novel that Harriet’s soldier comes back and she has to choose. The fact that he comes across as being a racist (“All Arabs…”) doesn’t quite counter his nice-guyness and the trauma he has been through is pretty much ignored. But that’s a smallish problem in the film’s entirety. Another one could be: as in many of Hallström’s films it comes close to being too rosy, the ending is too all’s-well-that and the problems are too neatly and sweetly solved.  This bothers some people but I’m fine with it.
This is, warts and all, a thoroughly enjoyable film.

4 * of 5

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970
  • Director: Ted Post
  • Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
  • Cast: Charleton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, James Franciscus, Paul Richards, Victor Buono, James Gregory, Natalie Trundy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Charlton Heston – Hamlet, Soylent Green, El Cid, Ben Hur, Planet of the Apes
    • Roddy McDowell – Overboard, The Poseidon Adventure, Inside Daisy Clover, Cleopatra, The Longest Day
    • James Franciscus – old TV programs I suppose
    • Paul Richards - ditto
    • Victor Buono – ditto and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte
    • James Gregory - ditto
    • Natalie Trundy – ditto and the other Planet of the Apes sequels 
  • Why? Part of series
  • Seen: Once or twice back then. Now: July 19, 2013.

It’s hard to say if this one is sillier than the first one but at least they got rid of Charlton Heston for most of it.  It’s rather exciting at moments and it carries a kind of crude antiwar message which probably had more impact in 1970, the year of its release, when the US war in Vietnam was really heating up.
This is not the story of good vs. evil, it’s more evil vs. evil with the humans and simians alike obsessed with religious fanaticism and violence.
There are some rather intriguing concepts. The underground ruins of New York two thousand years after destruction is one. Another is mind control, but the moral of the story is murky and extremely pessimistic. It’s hard to see how they’re going to get a sequel out of this one!
In all, it’s somewhat better, if grimmer, than the first one.
Let’s say

2 1/3 * of 5

7 July 2013

Choose Me

Choose Me 1984
  • Director: Alan Rudolph
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Geneviéve Bujold, Lesley Ann Warren, Keith Carradine, Patrick Bauchau, Rae Dawn Chong, John Larroquette
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Genevviéve Bujold – I’m sure I’ve seen her in other movies but I can’t find any in the list
    • Lesley Ann Warren – The Limey, Victor/Victoria, Mission Impossible (TV series), Cinderella
    • Keith Carradine – Big Bang Theory, A Thousand Acres, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller
    • Patrick Bauchau - 2012, Ray
    • Rae Dawn Cong – The Color Purple
  • Why? Liked it the first time
  • Seen: First time maybe twenty years ago. Now: July 6, 2013

       It took me a long time to find this DVD but finally I did and the film lives up to my memory of it as a poignant, moving, funny, dramatic and bizarre story.
The characters: Nancy (Anne) – a radio talker who gives good advice to the lovelorn but has no life of her own. Eve (or Karin and a lot of other names) – a bar owner who never finds love but tries a lot. Mickey – a former spy, ace photographer, car mechanic, mental hospital resident (or a big liar?) who likes to get married. Pearl - bar regular, poet, wife of…Zack – Eve’s rich violent lover. Billy – Eve’s employee and once-only lover who loves her.
Their lives all intertwine and weave in and out becoming more and more complex, confusing and bittersweet. Eve doesn’t know that her new roommate Anne is really Nancy of the radio talk show she, Eve, calls frequently for help with her love problems.  Eve doesn’t know that Pearl is married to Zack but Pearl knows that Eve is Zack’s lover. Mickey goes from one woman to the next, treating each as the love of his life.
The entire cast is superb.  It’s a gem of a movie.  Nobody I know has seen it or even heard of it.  What a pity.

5* of 5

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes 1968
  • Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
  • Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
  • Cast: Charleton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Charlton Heston – Hamlet, Soylent Green, El Cid, Ben Hur
    • Roddy McDowell – Overboard, The Poseidon Adventure, Inside Daisy Clover, Cleopatra, The Longest Day
  •  Why? A classic, cheap box, remembered liking it.
  • Seen: Once or twice back then. Now: July 5, 2013.

      Charlton Heston is so bad it’s embarrassing but then he usually is.  He’s meant to be a macho jerk here, I suppose, and he certainly is.  The gender stereotypes are generally irritating – the dewy eyed mute human babe that Heston falls for and masters, the dead (conveniently) astronaut whose role on ship was to become the Eve of the new human colony, the cutesiness of Dr. Zira – but OK, it was the 60’s after all.
What is somewhat surprising is that so much of the film still works.  The simian religious fundamentalism that denies evolution parallels that of humans in real life even more strikingly today than in the 60’s and the canny old orangutan priest-scientist has a point in trying to keep “man” (in this case the use of the masculine seems to be relevant) under control because of his innate violent, oppressive and murderous ways. Naïve and oversimplified of course but rather effective in keeping old Charlton in his place.
The impressive ending, the image and a-ha feeling which has stayed with me all these years, is still impressive though the surprise aspect is gone and Heston’s unconvincing ranting and swearing (which I don’t remember) rather ruins it.
A fun movie at times with dramatic landscapes (Death Valley? Gobi Desert? Afghanistan? – who knows? They didn’t give a lot of credits in those days) but it’s hard to really care about the characters. I wonder how the other four movies are.  We’ll find out in the next four Fridays.
2 * of 5

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise 1991
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Brad Pitt, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher MacDonald
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Susan Sarandon – White Castle, Anywhere but Here, Dead Man Walking, Little Women, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Client, Romance & Cigarettes, The Exonerated, The Banger Sisters, Igby Goes Down, The Cradle Will Rock, Earthly Possessions, Lorenzo’s Oil, The January Man, Bull Durham, The Witches of Eastwick, Compromising Positions, Atlantic City
    • Geena Davis  Beetlejuice, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Fly, A League of Their Own, Hero, The Accidental Tourist, Tootsie
    • Brad Pitt  Inglourious Basterds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Burn After Reading, Babel, Troy, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Fight Club, Meet Joe Black, Twelve Monkeys, Seven True Romance,
    • Harvey Keitel – Moonrise Kingdom, Reservoir Dogs, The Piano, Smoke, Lulu on the Bridge, Cop Land, Clockers, Pulp Fiction, Sister Act, The January Man, The Last Temptation of Christ
    • Michael Madsen – Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Donnie Brasco, Mulholland Falls, The Doors, Racing with the Moon
    • Christopher MacDonald – Broken Flowers, The Man Who Wasn’t There. The Perfect Storm, Requiem for a Dream, Quiz Show, Grumpy Old Men
  • Why bought: Like it!
  • Seen: Two or three times. Now: May 10, 2013 (somehow I missed posting this on the blog in the chronological order of the movies I’ve been seeing)

            Ridley Scott said in the extra DVD feature that this is probably a comedy.  Well, he should probably know, so it probably is and I probably thought so the first time I saw it.  It was quite a sensation when it came out. I mean – women who fight back?! Who shoot men and become fugitives?! That’s pretty…funny.
Guys probably think it’s a little scary. At least guys like the husband, the truck driver, the cop (not Harvey Keitel, the one in the trunk of the car) and the would-be rapist. And twenty odd years after the movie was made there are more of those around than ever.
It is, in fact, great fun to watch these two ditzy babes transform into gun-totin’ chicks and putting a few macho guys in their place. They still get screwed though. By gorgeous young Brad Pitt. By the whole cop machine (well, they were criminals after all).  Even good guy cop Keitel referred to them constantly as “girls” (a deliberate choice of words by the write, I assume), and macho sweet boyfriend Madsen couldn’t help.
That outlaws don’t survive, and it would be absolutely impossible for rebellious shoot ‘em up women to succeed in…what? All they wanted as this point was to get away. How realistic was it to think that Mexico would let them settle down?
Well. You know the ending. It’s a memorable one.
By now you probably think I hate the movie. I don’t. I love it.  It makes me terrible sad. It’s a tragedy. But I love it.

5* of 5

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? 1969
  • Director: Sydney Pollack
  • Based on book: by Horace McCoy
  • Cast: Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Gig Young, Susannah York, Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia, Bruce Dern
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jane Fonda – Stanley and Iris, The Morning After, On Golden Pond, 9 to 5, The Electric Horseman, The China Syndrome, Coming Home, Julia, A Doll’s House, Klute, Barefoot in the Park, Cat Ballou
    • Michael Sarrazin – actually, nothing, though he made many films
    • Gig Young – I may have seen something as a kid but I don’t remember anything specific
    • Susannah York – Superman the Movie, Happy Birthday Wanda June, Oh! What a Lovely War, Tom Jones
    • Red Buttons – The Poseidon Adventure, The Longest Day, various TV shows
    • Bonnie Bedelia – Anywhere but Here, Die Hard,
    • Bruce Dern  The Homecoming, The Laughing Policeman, The King of Marvin Garden, The Glass House, Silent Running, The Fugitive (TV series)
  • Why bought: One of the best movies I’ve ever seen
  • Seen: Two or three times. Now: May 9, 2013 (somehow I missed posting this on the blog in the chronological order of the movies I’ve been seeing)

           This is one of the first DVDs we bought when we got our first DVD player but it took until now to see it.  Hal didn’t want to see it again – too depressing. I wasn’t ever ready to risk having one of the movies that had made an enormous impact on me when I was young prove to be a disappointment.
But this weekend Hal is at a cousin reunion in Värmland in western Sweden. So I watched it.
Depressing? Oh yes. But so very good.
Fonda and Sarrazin, two desperate lost souls in a country of desperately lost souls in the Great Depression of the ‘30’s.  Hopelessness creates madness. In this case in the form of a dance marathon.  Two hours of dance, ten minute break. Day after day. Night after night. Once a week a ten-minute derby. Couples clutching each other, heel-toe power walking as fast as they can around and around the track. The last three couples are out.
The last couple still dancing wins $1,500. Minus expenses. Even in those days that probably didn’t go far.
These dance marathons really happened. People were that poor, that desperate. Gloria (Fonda) has given up on her lousy life before the movie even starts. Robert (Sarrazin) doesn’t seem to even have had a life except for his beloved horse being shot after breaking its leg.  They dance and they dance, slower and slower, egged on by the equally despairing emcee (Gig Young got an Oscar for the role), while one after another the dancers go crazy, collapse, die of heart attacks, leave in a rage.
There’s no happy ending.
This could well be Jane Fonda’s best performance. They’re all magnificent on their quiet road to hell.

10 * of 10

3 July 2013


Hugo 2011
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Based on the novel by Brian Selznick
  • Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Michal Stuhlberg, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Asa Butterfield – Merlin, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
    • Ben Kingsley – Shutter Island, Gandhi, Twelfth Night, House of Sand and Fog, Schindler’s List, Dave
    • Sacha Baron Coehn – Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables
    • Chloë Grace Moretz – I recognized her but I can’t find anything in the list that I’ve seen
    • Ray Winstone – Cold Mountain, Last Orders, Nil by Mouth, Quadrophenia
    • Emily Mortimer – Shutter Island, Harry Brown, Paris je t’aime, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Notting Hill
    • Christopher Lee – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow
    • Helen McCrory – Harry Potter (Draco’s mother),  The Young Jane Austin, The Queen,
    • Michael Stuhlberg – A Serious Man
    • Frances de la Tour – Harry Potter (Madame Maxine), Alice in Wonderland, The Book of Eli, Cold Lazarus
    • Richard Griffiths - Harry Potter (Uncle Vernon), The Merry Wives of Windsor, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleepy Hollow, Gandhi, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Comedy of Errors, Withnail and I.
    • Jude Law – Sherlock Holmes, Cold Mountain, Alfie, Repo Men, Sherlock Holmes, Sleuth, The Holiday, Breaking and Entering, The Aviator, Captain Sky and the World of Tomorrow, Road to Perdition, eXistenZ, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,
  •  Why seen: Rave reviews, Scorcese
  • Seen: June 30, 2013

      Part fantasy, part film history, part obsession with the mechanics of clockwork, this film is hard to connect to the person who made Taxi Driver all those years ago. But then, Scorcese makes all kinds of films.
The lure of rave reviews can be tricky.  A film that is a loving tribute to Georges Méliés, one of the pioneers of film making, is bound to appeal to all film lovers. It does to me too but only half way through it when that main theme becomes clear.
It’s a visually stimulating move and it deservedly got a lot of Oscars for that. The idea of an orphan boy hiding in the walls of a Paris train station and keeping the clocks running is a likeable one. There are moments of excitement too, although Hugo’s clinging to the minute hand of the clock high above the streets of Paris is a bit too obvious a nod to the Harold Lloyd classic but not very likely even in this context.
Jude Law in his small role is good as always but I can’t help wish that the young Daniel Radcliff and Emma Watson had been chosen to play the kids (too late, I know; when the movie was made they had gone and grown up.)
Either you fall for the film’s charm or you don’t.  I don’t. Granted, I shed a few tears at the end but that doesn’t take much for me. The cloying sentimentality and superficial philosophy weigh heavily against the pleasure.
2 ½ * of 5