Thursday Movie Picks: Romance Tropes Edition – Friends to Lovers

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Romance Tropes Edition: Friends to Lovers.

It’s no surprise there’s a ROMANCE theme this month given Valentine’s Day falls in February. I didn’t participate last time as I don’t really care for movies about fake relationships, but I do love movies about friends-turned-lovers as that’s how my hubby and I started out. We were good friends for a year in college and we’ve been married for 18 years now [I guess I just dated myself, ha!]

In any case, here are my picks:

EMMA (1996)

This is the first film I thought of right away and though I’m actually not a huge fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, I still like this version better than the one with Anya Taylor-Joy as the title role. I certainly prefer Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley than Johnny Flynn who looks more like a rock star than a refined gentleman.

As with many friends-to-lovers relationships, there’s usually one who is more besotted than the other. The gentle and wise Knightley has always known his feelings for Emma while she remains clueless while she keeps on meddling in other people’s affairs. There’s a 16-year age difference in the book which is reflected pretty accurately in this film.

 

 

Fun Trivia:
Rachel Portman became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score. The following year, Anne Dudley won the same award for The Full Monty (1997), followed by Hildur Gudnadottir for Joker. As of 2020, the three remain the only women to win an Oscar in that category.


Mansfield Park (1999)

Yes I have another Jane Austen movie, well la dee da! I know that many Austen purists dislike this movie as it doesn’t portray the protagonist Fanny Price accurately. But I actually like the more spirited version of Patricia Rozema, played beautifully by Frances O’Connor.

Fanny’s friendship with Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller) started when they’re just kids and they’ve always had deep mutual respect for each other. Somehow it takes a set of new neighbors for them to realize (well, mostly Edmund) how much they actually love one another. I LOVE Edmund’s confession to Fanny at the end, it was so overdue, yet the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Fun Trivia:
Mansfield Park was Jane Austen’s most successful novel in her lifetime, earning her in excess of £300.


Somekind of Wonderful

80s teen rom-coms are practically defined by John Hughes. He wrote this one and the movie was directed by Howard Deutsch and it’s one of the few 80s rom-coms I actually still remember and love to this day.

Keith (Eric Stoltz) and tomboy drummer Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) are besties but Watts is secretly in love with him. Keith somehow got a chance to go on a date with the girl of his dreams, Amanda (Lea Thompson), while her ex tries to get her back.

Ahhh… the agony & ecstasy of unrequited love… who can’t relate to someone like Watts? We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

I always remember the Keith-Watts kissing scene that Watts framed as ‘practice’ before his date. This article written to commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary calls it the ‘kiss that kills’ scene and it’s truly wonderful and practically iconic.

Fun Trivia:
Howard Deutsch and Lea Thompson fell in love during filming and they’re still married to this day.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

I know everyone is all about that Keanu Reeves’ cameo but the story between childhood friends Sasha and Marcus are so awesome. Ali Wong and Randall Park make for such a dynamic duo that’s so delightful to watch.

Despite being separated for 15 years and their careers gone on opposite directions, sparks still fly when they meet. I love the hilarious scene when they first meet after being apart for so many years, with Marcus’ dad (James Saito) candidly recalling their old times together.

Fun Trivia:
Ali Wong and Randall Park said that Keanu Reeves was their first choice for the film. The script was sent to him, but Wong and Park never thought they would get him. Reeves had watched Wong’s Netflix special ‘Baby Cobra’ and read the script to ‘Always Be My Maybe’ and said yes. Wong said he wrote “I would be honored to be part of your love story.” Park said that Reeves was quoting lines from Wong’s special.


So who are YOUR favorite movies about Friends turned Lovers?

Eclectic Weekend Roundup: Great Expectations (1998), About A Boy (2002), Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

Well there goes the weekend… it seems to fly by so fast as it always does. I’m super excited for my upcoming trip to Montréal next week, we’ll be there for four nights and then three nights in Québec City. The Airbnb flats we’ll be staying at are gorgeous and they’re both right downtown too! I’ll be doing a Canada-related post next week just before my temporary blogging hiatus.

Well, this weekend I ended up watching quite a bit of movies! Two of them are ones I thought I had seen before, but when I saw it I realize I had not seen them. Have that ever happened to you? Maybe it’s my hapless memory playing tricks on me, as I remember some scenes vividly but maybe I just saw clips of them a long time ago. Anyway, here’s my quick thoughts on those films.

Great Expectations (1998)

GreatExpectations1998Somehow I didn’t realize this Charles Dickens’ modern adaptation was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Believe it or not but I’ve never read Dickens’ novel but I knew they had made a ton of liberties with this adaptation, even changing the protagonist’s name from Pip to Finn and instead of becoming a wealthy Gentleman, he became a successful artist. But the essence of the story remains, as was the plot about unrequited love between Finn and Estella (Ethan Hawke & Gwyneth Paltrow).

I think both are perfectly cast. Hawke’s got that pinning look down pat every time he looks at Paltrow, and she definitely captured that ‘icy rich girl’ aura. The entire ensemble is stellar, with Chris Cooper, Anne Bancroft, Robert De Niro rounding up the cast. The cinematography was gorgeous and of course when I looked it up it was done by the genius Emmanuel Lubezki. My favorite part is definitely the music by Patrick Doyle which I have highlighted in this post.

I think the film itself was good but not as great as I had hoped considering the talents involved. It does make me want to see the more conventional adaptation set in the same era as it is in the book, thankfully there’s the 2012 BBC version with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter on Netflix!

3halfReels

 

About A Boy (2002)

AboutABoy2002I seem to have a distinct memory of having seen this one so I might have a long while ago but my memory of it is scant so it feels like I had just seen it for the first time. This is a coming-of-age story with a twist as the 12-year-old Marcus is the one who helped 38-year-old Will grow up.

Hugh Grant is wonderful as Will, a cynical, immature young man who holds no job whatsoever and is living off of the royalty of her dad’s famous Christmas song. It’s so cute to see Nicholas Hoult as a dorky kid back then, as he’s now grown up to be a tall and good looking young man. I love the two female cast here too, Toni Collette as Marcus’ unstable hippie mom and Rachel Weisz as Will’s love interest.

Based on a novel by Nick Hornby and directed by brothers Chris & Paul Weitz, I really enjoyed this one. Yes there are predictable moments throughout, but it’s got genuine humor and a big, big heart. 

4Reels

 

Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

UnderCherryMoon1986Now, I saw this one simply because Prince had directed AND starred in it. My pal Becky (Prairiegirl) lent me the dvd she rented from Netflix and though the movie’s *won* a bunch of Razzies, I simply had to see it out of sheer curiosity.

Gigolo Christopher Tracy (Prince) and Tricky (Prince’s real-life pal Jerome Benton) are two friends from Miami who’s scamming rich women in the French Riviera. But of course Christopher and Mary, one of the girls he was supposed to scam end up falling in love. The story is so cheesy and inherently silly, but it’s still amusing to watch simply because it’s Prince!

As a huge fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, it’s also fun to see her in big screen debut at the age of 26. She looked so gorgeous and fresh, and though she and Prince didn’t really have a good chemistry together, the moment the two characters saw each other for the first time was quite a hoot. She was draped in a bath towel in the middle of her own lavish birthday party and Prince was dressed in one of his extravagant suits that shows his lower back.

KristinScottThomas_UTCMPrince_UTCM

Though I can’t say it’s a good movie, I still think it’s quite watchable and you could even say this is one of those so-bad-it’s-good variety. There are scenes of Prince playing piano, singing and dancing, so it’s definitely well-worth a watch for his fans. Though he did direct another feature film after this one (the sequel to Purple Rain), I’d say filmmaking wasn’t really his forte. Even Kristin herself didn’t speak kindly of this movie (per IMDb trivia) and I can’t say I blamed her. Oh, apparently Terrence Stamp was going to play Kristin’s dad but he was replaced by Steven Berkoff (Bond nerds like me would know him as a Bond villain in Octopussy).

All in all I didn’t regret watching this one. The retro costumes and Mediterranean scenery are beautiful. Apparently it was shot in color but presented in black & white.

2halfReels


Besides these three films, I also rewatched Captain America: Civil War again in IMAX 3D and I actually like it even more. I appreciate the stuff I enjoyed from the first viewing even more so this time around, and I wasn’t as bothered by the slow start.


So what did YOU watch this weekend? Anything good?

sss

Rental Pick: Albert Nobbs (2011)

AshleyBanner

AlbertNobbsPoster

I actually stumbled upon Albert Nobbs as I was trying to find an interview with Janet McTeer about The White Queen on YouTube. I didn’t recall seeing any promotion for this film, but I listened to Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Janet McTeer (Hubert Page) talk about transforming themselves into men for their roles. A woman pretending to be a man isn’t something new in cinema. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow pretended to be a man for a role in “Romeo and Juliet” in Shakespeare in Love; although, her transformation can hardly be considered life-altering. However, something about their interview struck a chord with me.

In essence, the casting was superb. Close has fairly androgynous features already, but the makeup and costuming efforts were incredible. Just looking at the cover makes my skin crawl! Throughout the entire film, Albert is statuesque, methodical and reclusive, but I think that’s the point. One could argue this is merely to protect her true identity, but I think it’s more than that. Albert Nobbs subtly implies women, during this era (19th century Ireland), are a means to an end and constantly stunted by the whims and fantasies of men.

GlennClose_AlbertNobbs

Albert is a hard-working waiter at the Morrison’s Hotel, saving every coin, with the dreams of opening her own shop. However, she is so far removed from herself and her own person that she assumes the role of being invisible. It isn’t until Albert is introduced to Mr. Page do we see a spark a spark of life and emotion. Panic sets in once Albert realizes Mr. Page will be sharing her bed for the night, but we soon discover Mr. Page has a secret as well. Not only is Mr. Page* actually a woman, but also has a wife!

JanetMcTeer_AlbertNobbs

*To avoid confusion, I will always refer to Albert Nobbs and Mr. Page as “she.”*

Albert’s interactions with other people are so awkward and painful to watch, but the sympathetic Mr. Page slowly reveals secrets about her life and encourages Albert to live a full and happy life. Albert, determined to succeed, sets her sights on the charming, friendly and beautiful Helen (Mia Wasikowska). However, Helen has set her sights on the new handy-man, Joe (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Joe schemes with Helen to milk Albert for enough money to buy the two of them passage to America.

It’s particularly heartbreaking to watch Albert, once again, be taken advantage of by men, but it also brings her such joy at the prospect of a life she chooses to live. As you can see from the image, below, Helen isn’t thrilled by the notion of “stepping out” with Albert. We soon discover, Helen is expecting, and the noble, self-sacrificing, Albert offers to marry Helen regardless. Disgusted at the notion, Helen refuses and chooses to believe the fantasy that Joe will provide for her and the baby.

AlbertNobbs_Stills

Just when you think the film can’t get any more depressing, a typhoid epidemic breaks out in Dublin. We learn Mr. Page’s wife (Cathleen) dies from the epidemic, but it brings about one of the more touching scenes from the film. In an act of remembrance, Albert and Mr. Page put on Cathleen’s dresses and solemnly, and somewhat bitterly, think of what their life might be like had they remained women.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but it’s definitely filled with mixed emotions. Researching the film revealed it received mixed reviews from critics in 2011, but, undeniably, Glenn Close and Janet McTeer’s performances were brilliant. Both actresses received Academy Award nominations in addition to Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for their roles. I, too, will admit I didn’t love the film. In places it seemed to drag on, but it was interesting nonetheless. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind film and I encourage you to rent at your leisure.

threereels


PostByAshley


Thoughts on Albert Nobbs? Would love to hear what you think!

10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

IronMan3Banner

Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

IronMan3_ShaneBlackRDJ
Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

IronMan3_SittingwithSuit
Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

IronMan3_RDJ_Cheadle

Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

IronMan3_GuyPearceGwyneth

7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

IronMan3_RDJ

There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


4 out of 5 reels

What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Iron Man 2

Ok, now with the Oscars behind us, bring on the Summer blockbusters! It’s no coincidence that the brand new Iron Man 2 trailer’s released right after the Sunday telecast on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE.

I was kind of meh about the first trailer that’s more Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash-centered, but this new one looks awesome! I especially dig that last scene with the briefcase-turned-Iron-suit thing-y, major ass-kickin’ cool! Speaking of cool, Robert Downey Jr. is back as the über billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, giving Chris Bale’s Bruce Wayne a run for his money.

The story picks up exactly where the first Iron Man left off, with the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, Stark faces pressure from the government, the press and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, the genius engineer, along with his secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and personal pilot/confidant James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) must forge new alliances — and confront powerful enemies. We’ve got three new villains this time, with the fierce Russian weapons-maker Whiplash as the ringleader, Sam Rockwell as Stark’s industrialist rival Justin Hammer, and Scarlett Johansson as the mysterious Black Widow (another Russian character).

Emily & the comic's Black Widow

In case you didn’t know, there were some casting switcheroos that went on, with the obvious one being Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey a.k.a. War Machine (I personally prefer Howard in this role, but whatever), and Johansson replacing the originally cast Emily Blunt as Black Widow. Blunt expressed her disappointment over losing the role in this Filmonic article, oh well, she’s not the only one, I’d rather see her than Scarlet any day! The British actress would be a much better fit (physically and otherwise), plus she’s just a much better actress IMO.

In any case, who cares about the rest of the cast, the real star is always RDJ. He fits his character like a glove, or his metal suit I should say, which looks even sleeker now. The scene with a troop of Iron Man clones suddenly popping up everywhere kind of reminds me of Transformers though, I can’t tell which is which with all those metals clanging! But even with all the off-the-charts action, we’ve also got some witty dialog that I dig about this movie. Suffice to say the trailer gets me psyched to see all the fun flix that comes in every Summer, Oscar be darned, just bring on the action!

What about you, readers? Are you as psyched about this one as I am?