Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mama Mia

I had the pleasure of seeing Mama Mia with my mother, aunt, and uncle which really added to the enjoyment of this rather silly movie. Besides the good company, the movie is worth watching to see Meryl Streep belt out Abba tunes and to marvel at the incredible Greek island where the movie is filmed. As a side note, the young groom in the film was the Willoughby in the recent PBS Sense and Sensibility. Gosh, there does always seem to be a Jane Austen connection.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


The 1996 Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow is such a delight. Wow, it came out over ten years ago and back when the movie first came out I do recall, I found the movie too slick and snappy and missing key elements of the weighty novel. Right now I am listening to Emma on, so I can more accurately compare the novel with this movie. I see now that it made sense to take out a lot of the stray plot elements and also was surprised how much of the movie’s dialogue comes right out of the novel. Gwyneth Paltrow is a charming Emma and the sexy Jeremy Northram is probably way too cute to play the staid Mr. Knightly but he is fun to watch in the part. Oh, and I forgot that Ewan McGregor plays Frank Churchill (making me think he often plays goofy fops (see entry on Stay). Oh and don’t forget Sophie Thompson, Emma Thompson’s sister, as the chatterbox Miss Bates; she is a hoot in this movie, and her mother in the movie is her real life mother, Phylida Law. It was a lot fun watching Emma again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

After the Wedding

My cousin Clare recommended After the Wedding so of course I had to see it. It is a Danish film that begins and ends in India but takes place mostly in Denmark. The plot is so compelling, that you really can't do anything while watching the movie except read the subtitles and watch the great acting. (No crosswords can be completed) I can't reveal anything here without spoiling the film for you but suffice it to say it is surprising. The lead actor Mads Mikkelsen is quite something to look at, I don't usually think of such a stern looking man as so handsome. The movie does get a tad too melodramatic at times, perhaps too soap opera-ish, but it's a page turner movie-style. Thanks Clare for the recommendation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two More Ryan Gosling Films: Stay and The Believer

In an effort to watch as many Ryan Gosling films as I can, I rented Stay and The Believer. Stay is pretty much an unwatchable arty, way-over-stylized supposedly psychological thriller. It’s not even explainable. It stars Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, and of course Ryan Gosling. And even though he is very freaky in Stay, he is still hard not to watch. Ewan McGregor makes a splash because of his el strango wardrobe that includes too-too short pants. Was it supposed to be funny?

Elizabeth Reiser, perhaps best known for being in Sweetland and Grey’s Anatomy, is also in both of these films. In The Believer, she plays a Jewish attorney with Ryan Gosling as the even freakier NeoNazi who is also Jewish. This movie, which was originally banned from be distributed because of it’s exceptionally disturbing anti-Jewish content, was finally shown first on Showtime. It’s no joy ride watching this cringe producing movie, but Ryan Gosling’s performance is remarkable. All of the movies that Ryan Gosling has been in so far are listed below. (Half Nelson is still the best of the bunch, I think)

1. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
2. Fracture (2007)
3. Half Nelson (2006)
4. Stay (2005)
5. The Notebook (2004)
6. The United States of Leland (2003)
7. Murder by Numbers (2002) *
8. The Slaughter Rule (2002) *
9. The Believer (2001)
10. Remember the Titans (2000)

*Haven't seen these ones yet, maybe never

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Verdict #4 on AFI's Top Ten Courtroom Dramas

I decided to watch The Verdict after seeing it on American Film Institute's top 10 list of courtroom dramas. The beautiful Paul Newman looked a little haggard but was impressive as the alcoholic lawyer who takes one last stab at winning a case. My friends and I who watched the movie were struck by the datedness of the movie -- the slow pace-- the long camera shots -- the dial phone (printed out phone bill), the absence of computers, and the politically incorrect comments. I thought it was it going to be great, but I was only so so impressed with it. There was some falling asleep while we watched it (not me). Is it that we are so used to modern movies that we cannot sustain attention to the pace? After I learned that the movie was written by David Mamet, I thought, hmm, I should have paid better attention to the dialogue and should have been more impressed. Other AFI top ten in the courtroom dramas are . . .
1. To Kill a Mockingbird
2. Twelve Angry Men
3. Kramer Vs. Kramer
4. The Verdict
5. A Few Good Men
6. Witness for the Prosecution
7. Anatomy of a Murder
8. In Cold Blood
9. A Cry in the Dark
10. Judgment at Nuremburg

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joe Strummer, The Future is Unwritten

Joe Strummer, The Future is Unwritten captures the punkin', politican’, rockin' RAD Clash member through testimonies around the camp fire from former early band members, women who loved him, and celebs like John Cusak and Bono. I knew a lot about the music of the Clash but very little about Joe Strummer. This documentary, while all a mish mash of video clips, remembrances, and even scenes from the animated Animal Farm, gave me a good idea of who he was and what he was like. And Strummer seemed like the kind of guy who would be very fun to hang out with but not so easy to live with. I really enjoyed learning about this sad and crazy musician.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Kite Runner

I finally saw The Kite Runner after meaning to see it for a while, but I was reluctant. After reading the book, I knew what gruesome and sad events that awaited me in the movie and never really felt like putting myself through that. (this was another movie that I kept moving down on my queue) I liked but didn’t love the book but found the movie to be a worthy recount of the book. The movie is definitely a tear jerker, esp. when the adopted and damaged boy Sohrab (sp.?) tries to assimilate into life in America. The young actor who plays this boy had such a sad look on his face that it is heartbreaking. The movie does a good job of putting you in another world; the view of Kabul and a city in Pakistan is fascinating and is one reason to see the movie.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lawrence of Arabia

The American Film Institute extols Lawrence of Arabia as one of the greatest films, EVER. Since I had never seen it, I figured I'd better. Especially after I read somewhere that it was compared to Reds, which is one of my favorite films, EVER. It took me three nights to get through Lawrence, it is after all nearly 4 hours long. And while I liked all the cool desert visuals, and thought Peter O'Toole was super cute in it. I didn't really get its greatness. Actually, I didn't 100% get it, at all. There were a lot of battles that had to do with Arab tribes, Turks, stuffy British dudes, grunting camels etc. And it is one of the AFI's number one of ten top epic movies.
AFI Top 10 Epic Films
1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. Ben-Hur
3. Schindler's List
4. Gone with the Wind
5. Spartacus
6. Titanic
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
8. Saving Private Ryan
9. Reds
10. The Ten Commandments

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

John Adams

John Adams, the HBO miniseries, is based on David McCullough's exhaustive biography of this signer of the declaration of independence and 2nd president. The miniseries tries to do justice to McCullough's tome by paying attention to all the details of America's conception, all the documents written involving Adams, all the conversations Adam's had with all the great men of the time, and all the settings where he negotiated, primarily Philadelphia and France. In addition, the miniseries chronicles the story of his marriage with the great Abigail with whom he relied on for counsel and reassurance. So it's interesting and thorough, but at times dull. I liked learning about all of these events but an instructive, beautifully detailed movie does necessarily make for a breathtaking thrill ride. It's no Reds, in other words. And, besides that, Paul Giamatti's Adams is such a dour grumpy-frumpy man, one tires of him. Laura Linney, even appears lifeless after a while, and I love her. So if you want to learn a lot and see some fantastic historically accurate sets, John Adams is right for you. Otherwise, I would pass.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

AFI 10 Top 10

The American Film Institute recently came out with top 10 movie lists by genre. The genres include Animation, Romantic Comedy, Western, Sports, Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Gangster, Courtroom Drama, Epic. You know I like a good list and was most interested in their Romantic Comedy List:
1. City Lights
2. Annie Hall
3. It Happened One Night
4. Roman Holiday
5. The Philadelphia Story
6. When Harry Met Sally
7. Adam’s Rib
8. Moonstruck
9. Harold and Maude
10. Sleepless in Seattle

Roman Holiday, Philadelphia Story, and Adam’s Rib are also on my list of Classic Romantic Comedies (see side bar). I know little about the Charlie Chaplin silent film, City Lights, and question the addition of Sleepless in Seattle, but overall I think it seems like a respectable list. Except Moonstruck, while I thought it was good movie, I never really liked Cher and Nicolas Cage as romantic leads.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

Romantic Comedies have so much potential to be good and so often go astray, that I have kinda given up on them (In an earlier blog I wrote about the modern preponderance of slacker-striver types of romantic comedies that have added to my disappointment in this genre). So when my friend Ruth insisted that Definitely, Maybe, the recent attempt at romance with Ryan Reynolds, was better than most, I thought I would give it a try. And yeah, it was alright. It had a suspenseful plot and the final happy couple did seem right for each other. The romantic comedy conventions (find each other in a cute way, face an obstacle, overcome said obstacle) made sense and did not seemed forced. There was even a nice bit having to do with the novel Jane Eyre that was fresh. It wasn't another movie-potential-gone-terribly-wrong like in 27 dresses; however, it still succumbed to over the top attempts at humour that are just painful to watch, such as when school children were raving at their parents after they received a sex-ed lesson at school. One reason to watch is Rachel Weisz who is so interesting to watch that you wish she were in the movie more.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Reds (1981) is a one of those movies that I have such nostalgically fond memories of that I feared it would not stand up to my seasoned adult standards. Happily, I find that it does stand up and is even better than I remembered. I didn’t remember it providing so much food for thought about communism, the Bolshevik Revolution, the individual’s power to make a difference, the United States political system, journalism and so on… I didn’t really quite get the movie back when I first saw in the theater, I guess. And besides it being really about something important, it is also very entertaining. I could barely do a crossword and watch this movie (that means I REALLY liked it). This early 20th Century love story of John Reed, journalist and American Communist, and writer Louise Bryant, is so fun to watch develop. The lovers are played by Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton. Beatty is much cuter and more charming than I remembered and Keaton, after reflecting on her recent light-weight roles, is a much better actress than I remembered. The two challenge each other intellectually with witty and smart banter. It is indeed a feat to make a movie that is a sweeping 3 hour saga that doesn’t get bogged down by stray storylines or indulgent scenes by the actor/director/producer Beatty. The structure of the film is anchored by Reed and Bryant leaving each other and finding one another in unexpected and suspenseful ways: at a party, in a New York apartment, on a train heading toward Russia, and finally and most memorably when they reunite, again in Russia, in a train station. It’s one of the great scenes of filmdom! So, if you’ve never seen Reds, you must, and if you have vague fond memories, seeing it again is very enjoyable.

By the way, it is also fun to watch the DVD extras where Warren Beatty reflects in 2006, 15 years later about the making of the film. The extras on this DVD are actually interesting.