July 2014 Blind Spot Film: Purple Noon / Plein Soleil (1960)

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It’s been over three years since I saw an Alain Delon film, that was  Le Samouraï  where he played a silent-but-deadly assassin. Well as Tom Ripley, he isn’t quite as taciturn but he’s just as deadly. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was familiar with the story from the 1996 film version. I can’t remember much of the details of that one thankfully, so when I watched it, the story still felt fresh to me. Though it’s based on the same novel, the two films were pretty different. There’s a homo-erotic undertones in the 1996 version that wasn’t present in this one, and the ending is also very different.

SPOILER ALERT!
Just like other Blindspot entries, this review may contain some plot discussions.

Right away I thought Delon was a far more appealing and at the same time more sinister version of Tom Ripley than Matt Damon was. With his razor-sharp cheekbones and steely gaze, Delon possesses a certain coldness, that dangerous undercurrent lurking beneath his impossible good looks. Sent to Italy by a wealthy Mr. Greenleaf to retrieve his playboy son Philipe and bring him back to San Francisco. Though Delon essentially plays an American, he barely spoke a word of English as this is a French film.

Tom is to be paid $5000 for his services but later the offer is retracted when Mr Greenfield realizes Tom fails to do his mission. By the time we see him hanging out with Philipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), the two are like inseparable friends. Even as Philipe’s longtime friend Freddie (Billy Kearns) resents Tom for being a moocher, Philipe enjoys spending time with him … for a little while at least.

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Philipe’s fiancee Marge (Marie Laforêt) feels sorry for Tom but at the same time she’s not comfortable having him around. Well, can’t say I blame him, especially when it’s someone who obviously doesn’t mind spending other people’s money and wears her fiance’s clothes. There’s a really disturbing scene where Ripley is mimicking Philipe in front of the mirror whilst wearing his clothes and shoes. What’s more disturbing is that Philipe is well aware that Tom is lusting after his lavish lifestyle, yet he still lets him hang around with him. They even go on a yacht trip together, the three of them. Whilst Philipe is making out with the beautiful Marge under the scorching Mediterranean sun, Tom’s lustful eye follows every inch of them.

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Director René Clément filmed the psychological thriller in an expertly manner. The tension isn’t overt but it’s always lurking, waiting for the right moment to strike. The dialog at the yacht between Philipe and Tom is particularly fascinating as Tom jokingly tells him about his whole plan about killing him and taking his identity. At first Philipe seems nonchalant about the joke, even pointing out the weak points about Tom’s plan and all that. He gradually begins to suspect it wasn’t a joke after all, but by then it was too late. This is the most action-packed scene in the whole film, and Clement doesn’t overwhelm us with ominous score, instead he lets the natural elements like the choppy waters and high winds build  tension. Delon’s shirtless tanned body as he vigorously grabs the yacht steering wheel in this scene definitely sticks with you. An iconic combination of sex appeal and disquieting menace set in a panoramic vista.

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The cinematography by Henri Decaë is absolutely striking, whether it’s the narrow, cobblestone streets or the vast blue ocean, every frame is postcard-worthy. This movie could practically double as a Italian tourism video, especially mixed with Nino Rota‘s jazzy score. Best scenery of all is in Delon himself, what with cheekbones you could cut yourself on and those chilling, penetrating blue eyes that Decaë often frame in extreme close-ups. The devil comes in attractive packages and there are few men more attractive than the French actor. All the beautiful people and striking scenery gives a staggering contrast to the ugly-ness and darkness of the human soul. Even Philipe who’s the victim in the story is not a sympathetic character as he’s a hedonist and a bully. In a strange way, as wicked as Tom was, there’s a bit part of me that’s curious if he would get away with it. I’m not saying I sympathize with him, but like any great cinematic villain, he remains magnetic and captivating despite his vice.

Delon practically outshines everyone in the film as you can’t take your eyes off him. Obviously he’s devastatingly beautiful, but looks alone isn’t enough to carry a role like this. Peter Bradshaw’s review at the Guardian says it best “… his almost unearthly perfection is creepy itself, as if he is imitating a human being.”

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Now, about that ending. I found out after watching the film that in the book, Ripley did get away with his crime, but he becomes haunted with paranoia that he would be caught. But the ending in the film implies that Ripley was arrested when the policemen discovered Philipe’s decomposed body still tied to the anchor cable that’s tangled around its propeller. I do think the book’s ending is far more intriguing and audacious, it seems that the censorship code is to blame for the more tame finale. But still, it was a memorable ending with the sun-drenched Ripley sipping cocktails on the beach… the tranquil sight of the beautiful Riviera contrasted with a stomach-churning shot of a decomposed hand peeking out from a body bag.

If you have seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, I highly recommend you to check out this one. I’ve never seen Mr. Clément’s work before but I definitely should check out more. I’m also curious to see other roles by Delon as the two I’ve seen so far depict him as this cool and calculated persona, which he obviously excels at. He’s the perfect Tom Ripley here, far more effective than Damon and even John Malkovich in Ripley’s Game. Clément’s been called the French Hitchcock and it’s definitely fitting, yet his direction is still unique in that somehow the suspense is more subtle and there’s even a laid-back approach, keeping us mesmerized and on edge at the same time.

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This is the fifth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .


What do you think of  Purple Noon? I’d love to hear what you think!

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FlixChatter Review: SEX TAPE (2014)

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This review will be short and sweet because honestly there’s not a whole lot to say about Sex Tape.

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts. 

Yep. That’s about it. I went in with low expectations and it’s exactly what I got. The story is pretty simple. Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) met in college and had an intense physical relationship, but an accidental pregnancy, marriage and another kid later, they find their sex life is somewhat nonexistent. Annie is a mommy blogger whose blog is being courted by a Fisher Price type company and Jay is a music producer who is constantly gifting his iPads to family, friends and strangers. So, when Jay upgrades to a cloud based storage system and they film their sex tape on his iPad, it’s automatically sent to all of Jay’s used iPads. Yikes.

Sounds like a great foundation for a comedy right? Eh. When a film isn’t even rated half good (4.9/10 on IMDB), how do you expect audiences to be excited for it? Sure, there were some comical and awkward scenes, but it just felt tired. It was Jason Segel being Jason Segel. With the exception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his comedy has become redundant. And, he can’t seem to let go of that one character.

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I’m a big fan of Cameron Diaz’s humor because she’s physical, expressive and isn’t afraid to make herself look ridiculous. But, not even she could save this film. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed her last film, The Other Woman. True, it didn’t receive great reviews either, but maybe because the humor of that film was on the weird and complex nature of female relationships.

Honestly the amount of nudity and the premise of the film just didn’t work for me. The nudity was completely gratuitous and at times very awkward. Segel and Diaz spent more time naked than actually acting. Plus, it wasn’t believable that an intelligent, tech savvy couple couldn’t figure out how to delete their file from the cloud. I guess it wouldn’t make for an interesting film, but the couple embarked on a race to individually delete the file. Their journey leads them to Annie’s possible future boss’s house. Frank (Rob Lowe) appears to be clean cut, but Jay and Annie find him home alone and letting loose. I swear Lowe doesn’t seem to age, but he’s plays the eccentric, aloof characters so well. The film is almost worth seeing just because of him. Almost. 

I originally was going to give this three reels, but the more I’ve been thinking about it, it really only deserves a two. Sorry, I really dug into this one I know. But, I’m just being honest!

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So what do you think of this movie? Am I alone on the Jason Segel thing?

Weekend Roundup: Catching up on Downton Abbey + a ho-hum Hitchcock film

Happy Bastille Day Monday everyone!

Man now I wish I were back in Paris again [sigh] So how’s your weekend? It was another glorious Summer day on Sunday, ahead of the Polar Vortex (or you can call it the cool Canadian air) that keeps temps only in the 60s today. Yep, I actually have to wear a light jacket today, heh.

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I guess he has every reason to feel triumphant

So it seems that a lot of you saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes this weekend. ‘Apes’ Goes Bananas says Box Office Mojo [though we never saw any of the apes actually ate a banana], and the mojo is definitely with director Matt Reeves as the sequel brought in a whopping $73 mil domestically, and it’s already over $100 mil internationally. It’s the only tentpole film opening this weekend so basically there’s no competition. Besides who in the right mind would want to see those dreadful robots over these intelligent & emotive apes?

Well, if you’ve read my review then you already know I LOVED it. I actually don’t mind renting that again when it’s out on Blu-ray, maybe a double feature w/ the 2011 reboot. I sure hope Reeves will be back at the helm for the third film, man it’s poised to be one heck of a sci-fi trilogy!

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My weekend viewing is mostly home cinema. After nearly a year, I finally caught up with Downton Abbey again. Yes I know, my TV viewing is quite pathetic, I’m still on season 2! I don’t know if I’ll finish all four seasons by year’s end but I sure will am gonna try.

Well, everything I loved about it that I wrote last year is still true. I love all the characters, there are a lot of them but even the minor characters like Mr. Lang is intriguing. Dame Maggie Smith still has the best lines, and I LOVE seeing dashing Iain Glen as a newspaper mogul Sir Richard Carlisle. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s starring in Downton Abbey AND Game of Thrones around the same time, the two couldn’t be more different from each other.

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There are lots going on this season! What with Downton being turned into a hospital & all the intricacies that brings, Anna and Mr. Bates, not to mention the scandals of Lavinia and Sir Richard. Plenty of juicy scenes awaits!

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As part of my Hitchcock catch-up, I also saw a lesser-known film Torn Curtain (1966) as part of this Hitchcock Blogathon by Rob & Zoe. I learned about the blogathon pretty late so the films are all picked over. Still I was curious to see this one because the premise sounded intriguing and so is the casting of Paul Newman + Julie Andrews. Heh, I wish I had picked another film, it was such a bore!

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As I read the IMDb trivia, apparently Hitchcock himself didn’t like the film. So much so that he didn’t even want to appear in the trailer. He’s apparently unhappy with the screenplay and Newman’s performance but my main beef is with Julie Andrews’ casting. Well I’ll spare you the detailed review until August, but suffice to say I’d never watch it again.


Well so that’s my weekend viewing folks. How about you? Seen anything good?

Guest Post – Jersey Boys: The musical or the movie?

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly contributes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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I love it when books or musicals I like become movies because it allows me to enjoy the same story again and pick up subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in different mediums. “Jersey Boys,” the new movie directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It is based on the phenomenally successful Broadway musical which won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical. I have seen and enjoyed both the musical and movie for the same reason – everyone has heard the famous songs (“Big Girls Don’t Cry, “Oh What a Night,” “Sherry”) but the story behind the music is so well-told by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who did both the book for the musical and the screenplay for the movie, that it was just a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

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The main difference between the musical and the movie is the beginning – about the first 20 minutes of the movie are devoted to Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) dragging Frankie Castelluccio (later Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young) along to get into trouble in their blue collar Jersey neighborhood. In this way I felt like the musical was stronger because it introduces Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) earlier and that’s when their story really begins. For people who have seen the musical, the rest of the movie is the same as the musical and includes all of the famous lines that I found myself looking forward to in the movie. I don’t want to give too many of them away if you haven’t seen either version but there is one when a young Bob Gaudio meets flamboyant producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and he says, “I remember thinking there was something a little off about this guy. But this was 1959, back when people thought Liberace was just…theatrical.” Both iterations also feature actors breaking the “fourth wall” to talk to the audience.

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John Lloyd Young (second from left) in the Broadway version of ‘Jersey Boys’

The cast is led by the superb John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway version. After seeing the movie, I know why. I don’t know if I can objectively assess Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio since I am still infatuated with Andrew Rannells’ portrayal of Bob Gaudio when I saw the musical at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in 2008. I thought Michael Lomenda gave an unexpectedly strong performance as Nick Massi, the group’s bass and self-proclaimed “Ringo” of the quartet. When he is stopped by local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (played by Christopher Walken being…Christopher Walken) while trying to leave the group amid money issues and personal tensions, he proclaims, “With all due respect Mr. DeCarlo, I’d like to see you sell 100 million records by the time you’re 30 and see how you handle it.” Neither the movie nor the musical gloss over the price these guys paid for fame. Frankie Valli was an absentee father whose golden voice couldn’t stop the fact that his daughter died of a drug overdose in 1980. And neither version is a show for kids – there is a large amount of foul language throughout the show.

Both the movie and the musical end on a high note with a montage of the group’s famous songs. Although Frankie Valli is now in his 80’s, he was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis as recently as 2012. (At the end of the movie in his turn to address the audience, he says “I’m like the Energizer bunny, I just keep going and going and going…”) One thing to note about this show is that while Broadway musicals generally aren’t known for being a “guy thing,” this is a notable exception. Both my dad and uncle have seen the stage version and still talk about how enjoyable it was. There are several live versions on the road now (including one coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in April 2015) to compliment the movie, allowing anyone to enjoy this nostalgic, tune-filled story.

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What do you think of Jersey Boys? Have you seen both the film and/or the Broadway play?

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of June 2014

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Man, where has June go??! It’s nuts that this weekend is Fourth of July already which means we’re already halfway done with Summer :(

I feel that this month is a blur already, I actually have a hard time just what in the heck I’ve been watching this past month. Well, one thing for sure, I’ve been doing more Toby Stephens marathon since May. When I say an actor is versatile, I truly mean it with Toby. The man can play virtually ANY role brilliantly and no matter what genre he tackles, the British thespian effortlessly fits right in. It pains me how underrated he is as immense talent + chameleonic ability is quite a rare combination in an actor, the fact that he’s SO easy on the eyes is of course icing on the cake.

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Clockwise from top left: Toby in Black Sails (2014), BBC Jane Eyre (2006), BBC Wired (2008),  and The Machine (2013)

So thanks to my pal Becky (aka Prairiegirl), I got to catch up on Black Sails! I’ve only got half of the 8-episodes of Season 1 and it’s pretty good! Of course I’m not going to lie that Toby’s the main reason I watched it and he’s definitely the BEST thing about it. I LOVE what The Guardian said about Toby’s role as Captain Flint: “Stephens’s Flint is every inch the modern anti-hero that those accustomed to the moral greys of Tony Soprano or Walter White will appreciate.” I’m impressed by the quality of the series though, it’s definitely not the clichéd pirate stuff that’s often depicted by Hollywood. Can’t wait to see more from Season 1 and Season 2 can’t come soon enough!! I’ll definitely be doing a review of it once I’m done with the first season. In case you have no idea what the show is all about, here’s an inside look video of season 1:

Ok, on to the monthly recap!

Posts you might’ve missed:

New-to-me Movies/TV/Miniseries:

Rewatches:

I just realized I watched quite a lot of period dramas this past month! I wasn’t planning on it, but hey, it’s one of my favorite genres :D

  • Belle (2013)
  • BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006 miniseries)
  • Ever After – A Cinderella Story (1998)
  • Love, Actually (2003)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • The Machine (2013)
  • Pacific Rim (2013)
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Favorite Movie Seen in June 2014:

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I think Edge of Tomorrow is pretty darn good but I have such a soft spot for Hiccup, Toothless & co and this second installment definitely lives up to the fantastic original! Plus the soundtrack by John Powell is simply astounding. Stay tuned for a John Powell Music Break coming soon!


So, what movies did you get to see in June and which one is your favorite?

June 2014 Blind Spot Film: REBECCA (1940)

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As with a lot of the BlindSpot viewings this year, there are a lot of firsts in regards to REBECCA. No, it’s not the first Hitchcock film I saw, but it’s the first Laurence Olivier AND Joan Fontaine film I ever saw. I didn’t know David O. Selznick produced this, which was interesting given that I first saw Fontaine’s sister Olivia deHavilland in Selznick’s epic drama Gone With The Wind just the year before.

This was billed as a dramatic thriller, as well as a gothic romance, which immediately made me think of Jane Eyre. Interestingly enough, I noticed a few similarities with Charlotte Brontë’s classic tale (and not only because Fontaine did play Jane Eyre in 1943 with Orson Welles). Both of the protagonists in Jane Eyre and Rebecca are still haunted by his first wife. A wealthy man named Maxim de Winter (Olivier) meets a young, naive girl who accompanies her employer on a trip to Monte Carlo. Their first meeting wasn’t exactly a ‘meet cute,’ in fact he was rather rude towards her [yet another similarity to Jane Eyre's Rochester] but after a whirlwind romance, the two got married and he took her to his estate, Manderley.

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Now by the time the film starts, Rebecca is no longer in the picture, but no doubt her presence is felt throughout the film. Rebecca is definitely an overwhelming force despite the character never being shown on screen, not even in flashback. And that’s definitely what the filmmaker wanted Fontaine’s character to feel throughout the movie, that she’s overwhelmed by this unseen force who clearly still has a strange hold on everyone in Manderley.

The real suspense starts to build as soon as the couple get to Manderley. The big, expansive mansion looks and feel eerie, not unlike the ominous Thornfield Hall with a strange woman locked in the attic. The house is almost a character in itself, and it definitely plays a big role in the story. Manderley’s domineering, creepy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) definitely gives me the hibijibis. I really feel for Fontaine’s character and what she had to go through, not only did she have to endure her husband’s coldness, she also has to deal with a deranged, obsessive housekeeper who wanted to be rid of her. I kept wondering though why they couldn’t just fire Mrs. Danvers, I mean she is after all an employee at the estate. Right from the very moment she’s introduced in the movie, Mrs. Danvers is one of the most spine-chilling characters that really gets under my skin. I think the most terrifying scenes in the movie is when she gives Fontaine’s character a tour to Rebecca’s room, reminiscing on her former master and her obsession with her.

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Mrs. Danvers: [just as the second Mrs. de Winter reaches for the door] You wouldn’t think she’d been gone so long, would you? Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick light step, I couldn’t mistake it anywhere. It’s not only in this room, it’s in all the rooms in the house. I can almost hear it now.

Mrs. Danvers: Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?

The Second Mrs. de Winter: [sobbing] N-no, I don’t believe it.

Mrs. Danvers: Sometimes, I wonder if she doesn’t come back here to Manderley, to watch you and Mr. de Winter together. You look tired. Why don’t you stay here a while and rest, and listen to the sea? It’s so soothing. Listen to it.

[turning away towards the window as the second Mrs. de Winter slips out the door]
Mrs. Danvers: Listen. Listen to the sea.

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You could say Judith was quite the scene-stealer in this film as you simply can’t shake her for some time after you’ve seen this film. She’s THAT creepy. The rest of the cast is equally excellent in their Oscar-nominated performances. I’m quite impressed by the luminous Joan Fontaine who’s the heart of the film whomI sympathize with right away. She went from being this frail, nervous and self-conscious young bride in the beginning, to a woman who’s able to hold her own by the end. Her character definitely *grew up* as the film progressed and her transformation is very believable. Sir Olivier is perfectly suited as the wealthy tortured soul type, hardened and enigmatic. The British thespian has played another Bronte’s dark hero, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights just the year before, sounds like the type of roles he could play in his sleep. There’s not much chemistry between him and Fontaine but given the plot of the story it sort of make sense. Based on the documentary included in the disc, apparently Olivier was keen on having his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play Fontaine’s role, but I personally don’t think Leigh would suit the role as well.  George Sanders plays this weasel character who’s trying to frame Maxim, I’ve seen him play a similar character in All About Eve not too long ago. His character seems too lively to be really sinister or threatening however, I think out of all the characters, I feel that his performance is the least convincing to me.

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As to be expected from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock truly delivered the goods with this one. This is his second feature adaptation from Daphne Du Maurier novel and clearly the material suits his style. The gothic story lends itself to the eerie, bone-chilling atmosphere, and Hitchcock is the master at building up the suspense and that dreaded sense of impending doom. Every frame, sound, ambiance is carefully crafted, coupled with Franz Waxman‘s ominous score for a total immersive experience. I didn’t see the twist coming which is always nice when that happens. Yet Rebecca isn’t reliant on that twist for you to truly appreciate the film because it’s more than just a gimmick. The story is rich, with a deep, layered symbolism that stays with you long after the credits. It’s also a beautifully-shot film with the lush setting, gorgeous costumes, and evocative lighting that brings out its supernatural quality.

This is definitely one of those films that lives up to the hype. The heightened suspense and tension is what I expect from Hitchcock — he brought Du Marier’s story alive and kept me engrossed from start to finish. Just like the literary work it’s based on, this film has that timeless quality that would stand the test of time. I am surprised that this is the only Hitchcock film that ever won Best Picture Oscar. I definitely think it’s Oscar-worthy but I haven’t seen his later works such as Vertigo and Rear Window that’s far more popular than this one. I definitely have a lot of Hitchcock to catch up on and I’m looking forward to it!

4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fifth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .


What do you think of  REBECCA? I’d love to hear what you think!

Weekend Roundup: Two Austen adaptations, an espionage comedy + a Hitchcock classic

Wow, where has June gone? Can’t believe July is just 10 days away, seems that we barely had Spring and now we have been having a very showery Summer :(

I haven’t done a Weekend Roundup in a looong time. Well, I didn’t go to the cinema at all this weekend, but I did see some older movies and one re-watch. I must say it’s quite fun to watch not only one but TWO period dramas with my hubby.

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Inspired by my recent Austen Recasting post on Mansfield Park, I started watching the 2007 BBC version that I haven’t seen before. My hubby was looking at stuff on his iPad next to me whilst I was watching this and I kept making a comment at how much I prefer the 1999 film version that he’s curious to check it out. Well, since both are on Netflix, we decided to watch both!

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Well suffice to say, the 1999 version by Patricia Rozema is still my favorite adaptation, though it’s definitely a bolder and darker version than one might associate with Jane Austen. I think it’s interesting that it touches on the issue of slavery as the primary financial income of the Bertram family, though I could use without the nudity [albeit a brief one] as it really detracts from the story. What I do like about the film version is how beautifully-filmed it is and the music by Lesley Barber is equally gorgeous and evocative. Plus the casting is fantastic all around, especially Frances O’Connor as Fanny and Alessandro Nivola as Henry Crawford. I also love the ending, it’s romantic and sweet and Jonny Lee Miller has such an earnest quality about him that fits the role of Edmund. I actually like Fanny’s narration in this movie and I’m not always fond of the use of narration on film. It seems that Fanny is not people’s favorite’s Austen heroine but I actually like her and I really connect with Frances’ portrayal of her.

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On the other hand, I’m not fond of the 2007 version at all. I really try to like this but I just feel that Billie Piper is so miscast in the role. Sorry but I find her teeth VERY distracting. I know it’s not nice of me to say but I wasn’t bothered by her when she was in Dr. Who but she just doesn’t seem like she belongs in a period drama, and the way she’s swooning over Edmund just feels wrong and stalker-ish. At the same time, there’s no chemistry at all between her and Blake Ritson (Edmund), who looks like Adrien Brody but with slightly feminine features. All around the acting is just not convincing, most especially Joseph Beattie as the completely charm-less Henry Crawford! The abrupt ending is also very awkward that my hubby was like, ‘what the heck was THAT??’ I think this is my least favorite BBC adaptation of ANY literary works. I doubt I’d ever watch it again. I think the only fun part here is watching the lovely Haley Atwell as Mary Crawford.

On Saturday, we ended up watching an older spy movie that’s been sitting in our Netflix Instant queue for some time.

Sneakers (1992) 

Sneakers1992posterI saw on the description that it was a lighthearted espionage movie, but we didn’t realize that this was more of a comedy! The movie took a while to get going, but fortunately the cast kept me intrigued. The plot itself seemed complicated at first, as a lot of government conspiracy involving hacking, cryptography, etc. can be, but by the second act, it actually got to be pretty predictable. In fact, I had a hunch from the opening scene who the villain was. It’s interesting too just how relevant this topic is with the whole NSA expose by Edward Snowden, etc. In fact, Kingsley’s speech at the end about who controls the information is quite eerie because it’s really not far-fetched at all.

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It’s quite amusing to see the likes of Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, David Strathairn, who are usually in serious roles being quite goofy in this one. Strathairn especially as a blind man with killer hearing power and instinct, but the last scene had him driving a truck directed by Redford on the phone! None of these actors are at their best here though, in fact, they seem underutilized for the roles they’re playing, but still it’s fun to watch.

Btw, really sad seeing River Phoenix here. This was released a year before his untimely death in 1993 at the age of 23. Like the rest, his role is so minor, similar to a tech guy in those Mission Impossible movies, with Redford as the Ethan Hunt character, y’know. I remember seeing Phoenix in teen drama A Night in the Life of Jimmy Riordan years ago and thought how talented he was. It’s so tragic how these young talents were gone far too soon. In any case, I quite enjoyed Sneakers, especially the more action-packed third act and the humorous ending. James Earl Jones had a memorable cameo that’s pretty hilarious.

Lastly, I saw Rebecca (1940), a Hitchcock film that won Best Picture Oscar, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. I shall have a review of it this Tuesday for my June Blindspot entry, so stay tuned!

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Well that’s what I saw this weekend. What about you? Seen anything good?

FlixChatter Review: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

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I read The Fault in Our Stars and absolutely adored it. You can read my full review here! The dialogue was witty, sharp and fun and the characters were well developed. I’m also a huge fan of the television show “Friends.” Each friend lends a different perspective and balances each other out. Without all six friends, the show wouldn’t work. After digesting the novel in one sitting, this is precisely how I felt about each character. So, when I discovered TFIOS was destined for the big screen, I’ll admit I had my reservations. With that said, the film happily exceeded my expectations. 

Forget what you might’ve heard, but this is not a film about cancer. It’s about relationships; more specifically, two teenagers who experience real love for the first time. Cancer just happens to be their particular obstacle. Fun fact, the title is actually borrowed from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar:” 

“Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is battling Stage IV thyroid cancer, forcing her to wear a nasal cannula and carry an oxygen tank. Augustus (Gus) Waters (Ansel Elgort) has osteosarcoma (bone cancer) which caused him to lose part of his leg. The two meet in a cancer support group and they bond over ‘An Imperial Affliction,’ which just so happens to be a novel about a woman dealing with cancer.

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For being so young, their relationship is so mature yet innocent at the same time.  

Both Woodley and Elgort were believable as romantic interests, and, in my opinion, captured the sarcastic and clever nature of their respective characters. More importantly, not only did they portray the fear of living with cancer as teenagers, but also showed they are more than just their cancer. Even with death close on their heels, they demonstrated compassion and wisdom beyond their years. Woodley and Elgort perfected the boldness and insecurities of their characters. 

Woodley and Elgort actually appeared in another blockbuster YA film adaptation as brother and sister in Divergent! Admittedly, Elgort’s role was somewhat forgettable. However, to be fair, he isn’t integral to the plot of the first story; whereas, I was blown away by my introduction to Woodley. I can pleasantly say Elgort’s performance in TFIOS will not be so readily forgotten. He was gentle, sweet, caring, and was surprisingly confident for one so young. 

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There was one character I was particularly looking forward to seeing encapsulated on-screen. Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe) is the author of ‘An Imperial Affliction,’ but abruptly ended his novel in an unorthodox manner. Questions on what happens to the characters have plagued Hazel, and now Gus. Even though his novel was a vast success, Van Houten became a recluse and moved to Amsterdam. Needless to say, Van Houten is a quirky, bitter and cantankerous character, who also happens to be an alcoholic. I purposely avoided watching too many trailers and monitoring casting, as I wanted to be, for the most part, uninformed. So, I won’t spoil the surprise for you. I will say I loved the casting choice, and I think you will too. After seeing the film, I don’t think there was anyone else who could’ve pulled this character off (without being too showy or typecast).  

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Also, I was relieved to see a majority of the novel remained the tone and plot remained intact. There were a few tweaks and edited scenes I would like to have seen fully, but as a whole it really works. Director Josh Boone (Stuck in Love) has created an accurate, beautiful and humorous interpretation of a most beloved novel. I think in large, this is due to the fact author John Green was consulted and marginally involved with the production. Nevertheless, he has given his stamp of approval.

I highly recommend seeing this film; although, be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster. If crying in a dark movie theatre surrounded by strangers doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe save this one for the privacy of your own home. However, if you are bold enough, go see this film! It’ll make you laugh, cry and swoon all at the same time. 

4.5 out of 5 reels


PostByAshley


What do you think of The Fault in Our Stars? 

May 2014 Blind Spot Film: The Apartment (1960)

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The Apartment was supposed to be my April Blindspot movie, but I mistakenly thought I had Some Like It Hot on my list instead. Surely it wasn’t at all a waste that I got to watch another Billy Wilder movie, but I have to admit I was not as enamored with that one as most do. The Apartment however, lives up to all the praises and then some. It’s definitely my favorite out of the three Wilder movies I’ve seen so far (Sabrina 1954 was the first one).

I’ve always wondered why the movie was called The Apartment, but within a few minutes I found out why. I like the opening sequence with Jack Lemmon’s narration. He played the protagonist, C.C. Baxter, who works as an insurance agent for Consolidated Life, one of the top five companies in the country with 31,259 employees. He works on the 19th floor in this giant office with rows upon rows of desks. By the end of the day, Baxter is the only one left. No, not because he’s a workaholic or anything, but he can’t come home to his apartment whenever he likes because he lets the executives of the company use his apartment for trysts. I seriously don’t know how he gets ANY work done as every day he’s so busy booking up his executives’ dates at his apartment and make sure they dates don’t get mixed up. At first I feel bad for him, especially when he gets a call in the middle of the night and have to clear out for one of the execs’ booty call. But you know what, Baxter brought this upon himself, he’s doing this favors to the execs to move up quickly to the top.

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Though it’s obviously a major inconvenience for Baxter, he tolerates this whole charade because of his ambition. That is until he met this cute elevator girl Fran Kubelik. Shirley MacClaine is so cute here with her pixie haircut, this is the first time I saw her in her earlier films as the first movie I saw her in was Guarding Tess (1994) with Nic Cage. This is also the first time I saw Fred McMurray. He’s quite memorable here as the top exec who makes life complicated for Baxter. I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you have not seen the film, though the plot is not entirely unpredictable. What did surprise me was how dark the film got, especially in regards to MacClaine’s character. I think those who’ve seen this know what I’m talking about. Even the whole cheating execs thing is not exactly a wholesome subject matter. But of course, given this is set in the 60s, it’s still a very demure film nary of any risque scene.

At times the storyline reminds me a bit of Roman Holiday in that the protagonist was initially an ambitious go-getter, someone ruthless enough to get ahead in their career. But when they fall in love, their perspective completely changes. I love how Baxter becomes the sweetest, most caring man even after he realizes his chances to be with the girl he loves is slim to none. Jack Lemmon is absolutely endearing in the way he dotes on Fran, taking care of her when she needs it most.

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This film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. Both Lemmon and MacClaine were nominated in the acting categories, too. I’d have been ok if Lemmon had won Best Actor but then again I don’t know who else was nominated that year. Baxter is the heart and soul of this film, and the transformation of his character as the film progresses is very believable.

I love so many things about this movie. The sharp script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, lovely music by Adolph Deutsch, and the perfect balance of drama and comedy. I love the hilarious way Baxter made spaghetti, straining the pasta through the grid of a tennis racket. It’s quite an iconic scene that’s cute and heartwarming.

Fran Kubelik: What’s a tennis racket doing in the kitchen?
C.C. Baxter: Tennis racket? Oh, I remember, I was cooking myself an Italian dinner.
[Fran looks confused]
C.C. Baxter: I use it to strain the spaghetti.

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Of course the performances are great all around, I quite like the chemistry between Lemmon and MacClaine, and it’s the kind of romance that’s rarely seen today as their love develops with barely any physical contact! There’s not even a single kissing scene between the two actors, but you definitely felt the connection between the them.

The ending is one of those that made me go up and cheer… especially when Baxter finally stands up for himself and decides to become a *human being* (or a mensch as his doctor neighbor told him to be it just the night before). It turns out having the career he’s always wanted is not all that’s cracked up to be, meanwhile Fran too has an epiphany moment of her own. The finale is definitely one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve moments in movies. I feel that this ending is pretty typical for rom-coms, complete with the girl running to catch the guy she *finally* realizes to be the love of her life + a bit of panic happening that she could be too late. Yet, it doesn’t feel clichéd or hackneyed here, and that’s the beauty of this movie.

I’m glad I finally caught The Apartment, it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Now that I’ve seen two Billy Wilder movies, I definitely see why people love his work so much. I look forward to catching up on more of his films in the future, especially Sunset Blvd. that’s been recommended to me ages ago.

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4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fourth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .

As I missed April’s BlindSpot, there’ll be a Double Entry next month.


What do you think of  The Apartment? I’d love to hear what you think!

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Question of the Week: What’s your favorite BIG MONSTER movie(s)?

Happy Wednesday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone today in combining two post *series* in one. I’m just afraid I’ll miss doing a community-building post this month, but I want to pick your brain on the topic of the week: Big Monster :D

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Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks:

  • Apparently Chris never cries at movies, but these nine films almost made him tear up.
  • sgdsd

    What is Jack Bauer doing in Pompeii??

    Mark reviewed Pompeii which I had a feeling is NOT worth your while.

  • One of my favorite Blog Series ever is Michael’s TMT (a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time). Check out his latest story on Escape from New York
  • On the TV front, Sidekick Reviews posted some thoughts on the latest Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Finale: Beginning of the End
  • Speaking of TV, Nostra discovered this TV Miniseries A Young Doctor’s Notebook I’ve never heard before, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm
  • Hildebrandt_LOTRI always like learning something new and from this week, Cindy posted about book/poster illustrators the great Hildebrandt Brothers
  • Natalie posted about The Derby Film Festival in Derbyshire, UK coming up later this month. It’s always great to participate in a local film event!
  • Last but not least, Brittani just spearheaded yet another blogathon on Favorite Movie Titles A-Z. I LOVE this idea! I can’t participate next week because of my Europe trip, so mine would be posted later in June when I return.

Now for Question of the Week!

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Well, it’s inspired by my first ever viewing of a Godzilla movie last night. Yep, I’ve NEVER seen any previous Godzilla movie before, not the Japanese nor the US versions. I don’t know, I guess I’m just generally not a fan of monster movies, though of course I made an exception once in a while and in the case of Pacific Rim, I actually LOVED every minute of it! This latest Godzilla movie is not bad, it’s entertaining though it started too slow in the beginning and the human drama is pretty run of the mill, I’d even say corny with cookie-cutter characters that wasted the talents of the great ensemble cast! I don’t know when I’ll get around to do a proper review but I’d say it’s more of a 3/5 movie for me, maybe 3.5 if I’m feeling generous. Certainly the special effects are fantastic though, I saw clips of even the 1998 version and it seems light years behind compared to this! I think the earlier versions are more fun to watch for pure nostalgia value as the effects are hilarious!


So my question to you is two-fold:

Are you a fan of BIG MONSTER movies and which one(s) is YOUR favorite?