Jun 28, 2012

When Harry met Sally [1989]

After hearing the sad news of Nora Ephron's death, I decided that I needed to somehow remember the brilliant woman who was behind two movies I frequently watched when I was little: Sleepless in Seattle and You've got mail. Since I never saw "When Harry met Sally", I decided that a viewing of it would be the best way to do it!

The story follows Harry and Sally, as you would expect :) They first meet when they end up leaving college together to move to New York, sharing an 18-hour car ride. At the beginning they can't stand each other, and their interactions is fantastic, as the script offers sharp, witty and sarcastic conversations in the car or in the restaurant. One of the most memorable quotes of the films is: "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way", which tells something about where the story might go. Arriving in NY, they say their goodbye's, and only see each other after 5 years- the two still don't see eye to eye, but after 5 more years, when they meet in a bookstore and rekindle their unusual relationship, they realize they have matured and need each other, finally starting an unlikely friendship which leads them to great, sometimes funny situations (the orgasm scene in the restaurant is a classic by now: "I'll have what she's having").

Harry, played by the charming, but not very attractive Billy Crystal, is a straight forward man, always with a clear opinion about love and relationships; he is smart, rather dark and cynical, yet he longs for companionship and love. Sally, on the other hand, played by the adorable Meg Ryan, is a control freak, a woman obsessed with details, but also a sweet, smart and reliable person. You wouldn't say they have so much in common, but when they form their friendship, you can easily see, as cheesy as it sounds, that they complete each other. They like(maybe even love) each other for who they are and they accept all their flaws. For a long time Harry and Sally try to bury their feelings, not knowing if it's love or if they should give up what they already have and go to the next level, until one night when the expected happens. I won't tell you how it ends, but I think you already know where this is going right?

From a film making point of view, I have to admit that I loved the script and I thought it was one of the strong points of the film- Nora Ephron, as usual, created a superb, funny, but also witty and interesting story, with great dialogue, but I do have to say, as a down point here, that, although I kind of got the point of the interludes with older people telling their love story, I still don't think it made the film any better, I could have gone without it. As for the direction, I can't declare anything bad, as it was suitable and didn't stand out in any shape or form. One thing I did noticed is the use of spaces to have important, meaningful conversations- even if it was the car or the plane, or during a walk in the park, everything was wonderfully set.

All in all, "When Harry met Sally", a film somehow reminiscent of Annie Hall- at least to me, anyway, I don't know why, is a classic romantic comedy that you have to see!

Jun 26, 2012

Frankenstein- National Theatre UK production

Frankestein is a 2011 National Theatre UK play directed by Danny Boyle, which not only was presented as a stage project, but also was broadcasted live in cinemas all around the country. It is a superb production, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Miller as both The Creature and Frankenstein- they switched roles every night, and so the two men got to play both roles in alternative nights. As expected, the show was not significantly different, but the two fantastic actors portrayed the parts in totally different ways. For example, from what I've heard, Miller as the Creature is much more dynamic, but also human; Cumberbatch's movements, especially in the beginning, are slower and he chose to act the part in much more raw, evil way, compared to his partner.

As you might now, it tells the story of a young man named Frankenstein who created a man, but was so shocked to see his project come to life, that he left him, running away. We experience the show from the creature perspective- we see him breathe for the first time, and then starting to learning to move, speak, eat and so on. After being beaten and considered to be a monster, he ends up at the house of a kind, old, blind man, who, unaware of the Creature appearance, takes pity in him and proceeds in teaching him how to read, speak and yearn for more knowledge and love. It is now when one of my favorite scenes occurs, as they talk about life, its meaning, why people act the way they do and others. I'm sure that if you've read the book, you will know what I am talking about. Tragedy comes when the old man's son doesn't approve of the peculiar human being, and so, it moves on and takes upon him to find Frankenstein and convince him to make him a female creature. Frankenstein agrees, but suddenly changes his mind moments before creating her, in one of the beautiful, touching scenes I have seen, as the Creature explains to him what he thinks love is and how it feels. The script, the lines, the dialogue, their interaction, everything was perfect. I think that was the point where I decided that I definitely need to read the book, as well. Infuriated, the Creature goes after the professor and ruins his wedding day, starting a long journey to the north with the scientist behind him, as Frankenstein vows to kill him.

I had the pleasure to see a screening of the production last week with Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature- he completely surprised me and I was floored by his performance. To start with, I was impressed by his commitment to the part- playing such an iconic, but also extremely peculiar and unique part, is a hard task, especially in the first half of the play, when he basically has to show us how a man learns in 20 minutes what we learn in 20 years. It's strange, yet appealing, and he convinced us all that he was the Creature. There were so many little details, so many gestures, hand movements and so on, that helped create the character and make us understand him. Miller is a force of nature and deserves all the credit, alongside his co-star, of course.

Benedict Cumberbatch played the part of the professor and had a more supporting role, although the second part featured a lot of key scenes between the two men. The talented English man, as expected, was fantastic in the part and had great chemistry with Miller, and I have a feeling that him as the Creature would have been just as interesting to watch, although, like I said, Jonny Lee was superb.

As for the actual production, I have to say that Danny Boyle did wonders. Everything was visually beautiful, especially the lighting, the score was haunting and appropriate to the play and you could see the director had a cinematographic vision.

The play was very well received in the UK, earning many accolades, including Best Actor at the Laurence Olivier awards (the Tony's of UK theatre), split between Miller and Cumberbatch. I know it will be shown in cinemas this autumn in Europe, but I really hope the people from the US or Australia or India will get to see it, too, somehow. It is a fascinating play/movie and I highly recommend it!

Jun 23, 2012

Random musings on recent film news

There was a lot of chatter around the film industry in these last couple of days about certain projects and I just wanted to talk about a few things that caught my attention and made me excited!

Plus, the To See This Summer list :)

Film news

Anna Karenina trailer
The trailer stood out immediately by its fantastic art direction and cinematography- everything looks breathtaking. It also made me want to read the book, as the extremely rapid succession of scenes seemed quite interesting and featured a lot of conflict and character development, something I always like to find in a movie. Keira Knightley is stunning and I think she will, once again, give a wonderful performance. The ones I am worried about are Jude Law and Aaron Johnson- I don't know if it's the costume&make up's fault or if it's simply the casting, but I don't really like or connect with their characters. You may say that is the point, but either way, I am not convinced, there is just something off about both of them. Despite those two, I am very intrigued and I can't wait to see the movie. The man who directed Pride&Prejudice and Atonement will always have my attention!

The Master trailer
Paul Thomas Anderson- There will be blood and Magnolia. Stop. Just take my money already, you know I want to see this movie and I haven't even pushed play. Ok. Let's see it anyway! Hmm..in true Anderson style, we have a complex, rather weird screenplay, with fantastic performances and a remarkable score...all that in 2 minutes. Yes, I will see it!

12 years a slave
Whenever I hear about this movie, I immediately think about Django Unchained- I don't know why, maybe it's because they have similar storylines, but I always connect those two. And, honestly, there is nothing wrong about that, as both seem to be fantastic and I am excited to see them. But I love 12 years a slave more for two HUGE, MAGNIFICENT, apparently PERFECT reasons: Steve McQueen is directing it and the cast is FANTASTIC (yes, they deserve caps lock). Just read the following names and try to imagine them in the same movie: Chiwitel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Taran Killam, Paul Giamatti (all are amongst my favorite actors, so I am over the moon for the male casting part) + Sarah Paulson and Alfre Woodward, who are both wonderful actresses. I don't care about anything else, I will go see this movie for sure, here is the recipe for success. I love Steve McQueen and I know he will not disappoint this time, either.
IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/

Angelina Jolie looks fantastic in the new still from the movie. Considering the visual quality of most re-invented Disney classics, I really want to see this, especially since it is darker and the cast is great (Sam Riley is in it and I love Elle Fanning). I am curious about the direction or approach they are going to take, especially when it comes to storyline. But 2014? why so far away?

To See This Summer list (UK release date)
- Killer Joe (29th June)
- Glastonbury the Movie (29th June)
- Magic Mike (guilty pleasure: hot men stripping, you understand, right? ) (11th July)
- The Dark Knight Rises (20th July)
- Step up 4 (call me crazy, but I like this franchise, I am sucker for dance movies and the music used for it) (10th August)
- Brave (17th August)
-Take this waltz (17th August)
- Lawless (7th September)
- Anna Karenina (7th September)

What are your thoughts about these news? What movies are you most looking forward to seeing this summer?

Jun 21, 2012

Rock of Ages [2012]

Yesterday I decided to take advantage of the great Orange Wednesdays offer (although I don't have Orange, so I borrowed a code) and go see a movie with my friend; we didn't have a great selection to choose from, so we went in to see Rock of Ages- a harmless musical that could entertain us!

The Adam Shankman production is exactly what you would expect it to be: loud, colorful, with crazy choreography and a feelgood atmosphere that never leaves the screen. It works for a musical, and although you will cringe in several points of the movie, you will still enjoy it, as it is fun to watch!

It follows the story of Cherri, an Oklahoma girl with big dreams who moves to LA to start a music career. She begins working at the Bourbon, the best club in town, and meets Drew, also an aspiring artist. They fall in love, but live a short romance and go their separate ways after Drew secures a recording deal. The story has a happy ending, as expected, in a cliche way, of course, but features several scenes that are memorable: the Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise)- Constance, the reporter (Malin Akerman) duet, the extremely funny Alec Baldwin-Russell Brand scenes (including a hilarious Can't fight this feeling sing a long) and "We Built this city on Rock'n Roll" climax.

From the musical point of view, it was amazing, because it featured some of the best rock songs ever. Both me and my friend enjoyed them and found ourselves quietly singing the lyrics. I do remember my friend saying, 20 minutes into the movie, "are they going to sing the whole time?"- she was right to ask, as most of screen time was used for that, and I can't complain about the music, but I can about the acting and the staging, which was incredibly over the top. I understand it was based on a musical, but let's face it, this was a movie, not a stage thing. I think Adam Shankman spent too much time on Broadway.

The cast was fantastic, and although it was a tad too much to watch, especially with the dialogue lines and the choreography, they still delivered. The standout was definitely Catherine Zeta Jones- that woman is a force of nature and she rocked every scene, I just love her. Another great performance was given by Tom Cruise, who truly immersed himself into the character, and made it believable....I guess. Malin Akerman had great chemistry with him and their scenes were amazing. As for the two leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, what can I say? They were fine, they were sweet and dreamy and worked well together, with a lot of passion and enthusiasm, but I wasn't blown away by them.

Rock of Ages is crazy, over the top and full of cliches, and you will probably roll your eyes or cringe numerous times, but if you're looking for a fun movie night or something entertaining, this will do the trick. The girls might like it more than the boys!

Did you see it? what was your reaction?

Jun 19, 2012

The Hours [2002]

Directed by Stephen Daldry and based on a novel by Michael Cunningham, with a screenplay penned by David Hare, The Hours is a remarkable movie starring three women (Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep) connected by a book, Mrs Dalloway, who have to overcome the trails and tribulations of a single day that may change their lives forever.

We start by observing Nicole Kidman's storyline, who stars as Virginia Woolf, an unstable woman in the care of numerous doctors and under the supervision of her husband, Leonard, played by Stephen Dillane. She is mentally disturbed, while having hallucinations and suicide thoughts. That morning, she begins to write her book, Mrs Dalloway, and spends the day figuring it out the plot line and trying to overcome overwhelming emotions of depression and boredom, feeling she was trapped in that small town where everyone considered it to be better for her than London. Nicole Kidman was absolutely fantastic, giving a stunning performance- the accent was on point and you can easily see the great transformation pshycally and mentally. She won an Oscar for this role and I believe it was well deserved, although I don't know her competitors in the category from that year. The husband also gave a surprisingly good performance, which was reserved, but full of love and concern, and it was nice to see Miranda Richardson as the sister.

The second story follows Laura McGrath- Brown, a seemingly happy wife and mother of one, plus one on the way, living in 1951 Los Angeles. Although she has a good life, a loving husband(John C.Reilly) and a lovely boy, she is miserable in her apparently perfect life, for reasons even she can't understand. Laura grows more nervous as the day passes and even books a room in a hotel with the thought of killing herself, but somehow she changes her mind and returns to her family. The boy notices something is wrong , he can feel it, especially when he starts screaming from the top of his lungs when she leaves him at the neighbour's house. The interesting part of the story comes at then end when we see the connection between Julianne Moore's character and Streep's. Throughout the movie, Julianne Moore shines and gives a stunning performance, quiet, but appealing and emotional, and makes you feel everything her character is feeling. I was very impressed by her in this role.

Clarissa Vaughan, the third woman, wakes up in New York, year 2001, with the thought that she will buy the flowers for the party she is throwing her very good friend, Richard, an accomplised writer. During the day we discover that the connection between the two is very powerful and has deep roots from their early teenage years. He is dying of AIDS, but she won't let him go, to say so, holding on to the hope and the strong relationship they have. Ed Harris, as the sick man, was fantasic, and gave a chilling, moving performance of a man in search of peace and love. The reveal of his connection with the previous story was a little bit shocking, but gave us more details and made us better understand the situation. His last scene with Streep was breathtaking and very emotional and I love the speech he gave. Claire Danes also has a short appearance, showing a careless, sweet and free youthful energy, and of course, Allison Janey is part of the cast- I love her and she's not disappointing, either, despite her small part. Suprisingly enough, from my point of view, Meryl was the weakest link between the three leads- she didn't do anything wrong, but I didn't feel her spirit and commitment as much as the other two, although the scene in the kitchen with Jeff Daniels, her breakdown, was quite something.

From the filmmaking point of view, The Hours is close to perfection. I loved the simple style of direction, which helped us focus more on the story and its characters. Although you do see some interesting elements regarding camera movement, like a special focus on details (eggs), or flawless cinematography, it's the screenplay and the acor's performance that shines through. Every scene is perfectly executed and draws you in; the music, together with the sets and costumes, are absolutely stunning and they capture and emote the emotions of the story. Overall, it mixes the drama with the music and the beautiful language and the rough feelings and unsaid things, creating a sad, yet bittersweet world.

Somehow, I associate The Hours with a A Single Man, by Tom Ford. The connection is made in my mind, maybe by the similarities in stories, characters or direction. A Single Man is one of my all-time favorite movies and I can say now that The Hours is also added to that category. Beautiful film that you should definitely see!

Favorite quotes
"Mrs Dalloway, always giving parties to cover the silence"
"But I still have to face the hours, don't I?"

Jun 15, 2012

Chinatown [1974]

Chinatown is a 1974 classic directed by Roman Polanski and written by Robert Towne, about a private investigator (Jack Nicholson) who stumbles upon a very important fraud case after a seemingly simple job.

A woman hires Gittes to see if her husband, Hollis Mulwray, who happens to have a key position in the water department of Los Angeles, is cheating. Turns out he was, but the lady who ordered the job was not actually the wife. Here's where the lovely Faye Dunaway comes in, in a great chinaman joke scene. The case complicates after the husband turns up dead, and so a whole conspiracy unfolds regarding the water supply to the city, all whilst shocking dark secrets of the woman's family threaten  the life of Evelyn Mulwray and the people around her.

Chinatown is a very good film that stands out mostly because of his intricate, always intriguing screenplay (which won a lot of awards back in the day). The story is complex, the characters are cool, reserved and with a touch of mistery, and the visuals are sometimes breathtaking- it drives you in and demands your attention. On the one hand, I liked the script and there were some scenes that stood out for me- for example, the after sex bed scene- their conversation, the way they look at each other, their attitude, everything was so sultry and appealing. On the other hand, I didn't find it to be particularly fantastic, although I know it has been praised by many. What I did like and what was the high point in my perspective, at least,was Roman Polanski's direction style. It is simple, classic, but quite sleek and visually beautiful, highlighting the cinematography and the production design in a great way. 

The cast was strong and of course both leads stole the show; Faye Dunaway, as Evelyn Mulwray, was stunning- the true incarnation of classic beauty, effortless charm, with  the same poise and style as icons like Audrey Hepburn or Katharine Hepburn. She was probably one of the last starlets of Hollywood- from the late 70s, early 80s everything changed. Her chemistry with Jack Nicholson was palpable, intense and believable. He was also sensational in this role- he is, after all, one of the greatest actors ever. Somehow, he reminds me of Leonardo DiCaprio, or maybe it's better to say DiCaprio reminds me of Nicholson. Either way, there is something special about Nicholson and I noticed that every time he comes on screen- it can be the attitude, or the charm, but it's definitely the talent that is always pushing him on top. 

Chinatown is an intriguing story that constantly reveals new dark secrets about the LA world, featuring two great performances and a complex storyline. I recommend it, you should definitely find time to see it! 

Jun 13, 2012

Schindler's List [1993]

This 1993 multiple awards winning classic is rightfully considered a masterpiece. If the mention of 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Screenplay and Cinematography, don't give you a clue that you are dealing with a fantastic movie, then maybe the cast or the story will. Set during the second world war, it speaks about the unfair and truly awful destiny the Jews had to face during Hitler's tyrannic era. 

It's a story about Oskar Schindler(Liam Neeson), a wealthy, smart man who decides to take advantage of the troubled times that the world was facing and make money out of it. He sets up a factory in Krakow, together with a quiet, smart Jew accountant(Ben Kingsley) by accepting and therefore helping the people living in the ghetto. Stern, the faithful right man, started the initiative, giving a hand to the ones in need, but after a while, Oskar sees his efforts and decides to continue his work, by rescuing as many men and women as he can, all ending into a touching, yet unbelievable situation where he has to buy more than 1100 people from Amon, the ruthless German commandant, in order to save them from Auschwitz and the terrible fate it waited for them. For that, he was always remembered as a hero and saviour, and the next generations of the people who he managed to get out the concentration camps are now more than the survivors of the remaining Jews in Poland after 44. 

The story, therefore the screenplay, written by Steven Zaillian, after a Thomas Keneally book, was memorable, intense at points, with fantastic scenes from time to time, but it did felt a little too much. I think it's probably the only thing I would have to comment about this film- 3 hours is a bit too much, although I perfectly understand why they did it. Other than that, Steven Zaillian managed to tell a heartbreaking, tragic story in a script worthy  of its accolades, although from what I've later heard, it wasn't entirely accurate. I set out with a clear opinion and feel of mister Schindler, but  a discussion with a friend changed my mind. He said he read the book and that in it, Oskar didn't actually care about the people- his only interest was having a good, cheap workforce. This little detail was clearly modified in the script, and it disturbed me and somehow downgraded, even if just for a tiny bit,the film. They didn't tell the story like it happened, but then again, it is a film and I guess Spielberg and Zaillian have the right to somehow make the situation a little sweater and more cinematic, right?

Continuing the praises for this feature, I must mention Steven Spielberg who did a stunning job. I loved  the direction and I felt it perfectly suited the atmosphere and the tone of it, not to mention that it helped portray the characters in the best way possible, even if they happened to be a ruthless killer or a silent housekeeper.  The sudden killing spree in the ghetto on March 13 was just amazing- the whole production and the way it was shot was  sensational, memorable and chilling. The red coat detail was well placed and added more drama to the already tragic situation. 

The cinematography was definitely a high point of the film, as Janusz Kaminski used Black and White in such a beautiful, artistic and visually attracting way. The sets and costumes perfectly coordinated with the image and tone of the story, and the score, mostly orchestral, but with melancholic American hits sprinkled between,highlighted the essentials and made everything feel real. 

As expected, the perfect cast delivered in a superb way, adding even more layers to already complex characters, and somehow fitting it into that era and its customs and way of being. I know everyone remembers and deeply appreciates Ralph Fiennes for his unbelievable rendition of Amon Goeth, and I do that,too, I cannot not notice the character or its delivery, but my personal favorites were Sir Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson. They worked together seemingly effortless and maybe I liked them more because their parts were more approachable and real. While Neeson does his best to showcase the true side of Schindler, with charisma and intelligence, Kingsley, with his natural talent and poise, stands out for me, although his part is much more quiet and reserved. 

Maybe I am overreacting about Schindler's list, but honestly, for me at least, it's one of those movies that is almost flawless, it's the type of film that perfectly blends the story with the visual and audio, creating a different, almost real word inside a frame, a film that moves you, all while featuring wonderful performances that cannot be missed. 

Schindler's List is a must see feature for everyone. 

Jun 11, 2012

Friends with kids [2012]

Friends with kids is a 2012 film written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, who just happens to be Jon Ham's better half, as well. It's about two best friends, a guy and a girl, who decide to have a child together when time runs out, their friends start having kids and they can't seem to find the right person to start a family with.

I am afraid this review might turn out to be very short because frankly, there is nothing outstanding about this film, although it is entertaining and mostly delivers in every aspect. The script is one of the strongest points, yet I must admit the end is too good to be true, but hey, it's fiction, it's a movie, so I'll just take it as it is and enjoy it.The dialogue is witty and occasionally funny, and the actors make it work very well- it does have a realistic feel to it. Considering it is set in the present day of New York, I can't really say anything about the sets, the costumes or the direction- everything felt....OK. Really, nothing bad or good stood out!

One thing I particularly liked was the casting. Yes, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm are one of the couples and they are surprisingly good in a non-comedic role, especially Wiig, who I was impressed by, but my favorites have to be Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd. They are dynamite together and form a weird, but adorable and funny pair that light up the screen- O'Dowd, in particular, is on his way to stardom, just because of his charisma, English charm and talent, and I've loved Rudolph ever since the SNL day and I still think she is one hell of a woman. Adam Scott did a pretty good job portraying the sarcastic, often blind-to-the-obvious type of man who always goes for the easy route, whilst Jennifer Westfeldt offers a nice surprise, adding compassion, love and a touch of sweetness to the cast and the story. They form an odd couple, but I could see it happen in real life.

Overall, like I said, there was nothing very bad or very good to say about it. `Friends with kids` is a nice, normal, romantic comedy that you could probably watch anytime- put the DVD in, enjoy it for the almost 2 hours it runs, and then forget about it. I would recommend it just because it is a light movie that can be seen whenever you need something to cheer you up or take your mind off things.

Jun 9, 2012

Guess who's coming to dinner [1967]

Written by William Rose and directed by Stanley Kramer, this 1967 classic tells the story of a couple who have to break the news of their future wedding to their parents, whilst battling race issues and prejudices. John Prentice, a successful over 30 black man, falls in love in Hawaii, at a conference, with Joey Drayton, a 23 year old girl. Their short adventure immediately leads to an engagement, and so they decide to go to San Francisco to tell her parents the news. Joey is naive, as she doesn't see the problem in the difference between her and John- she was raised not to believe or support racism, and she expects everyone around her to agree. Doctor Prentice is much more mature and rational and perfectly understands the problems that might occur when two people from different races form a couple, especially in those times.

The film is a great example of character development and good script. One of the key moments of the story is the parents' reaction. The mother, wonderfully played by Katharine Hepburn (who also won an Oscar for her role), finds out first. She is shocked, but restrains herself, saying almost nothing, but everything shows on her face. All actresses from the past have such an expressive face, you can always understand what they are feeling, and miss Hepburn is no exception. Although her initial reaction is not so positive, she quickly changes her mind when she sees how in love her daughter is; plus, it doesn't hurt that her fiancee is a smart, impressive man. The father doesn't take as well; shocked, he goes up and down in different stages of accepting the fate of his girl, from surprise, to concern, to admiration for the man, all leading to a firm denial of the possibility that things will go well for the couple. John's parents have similar opinions, although they must face the truth and decide if they agree or not much faster. The women easily come to a positive conclusion and try to convince their better halves that the union should go on. In the end, misses Prentice convinces mister Drayton to change his mind, all culminating in a great speech about love, support and prejudice. I liked it, but it seemed to be too much of a nice ending to the film.

I also liked the fact that the feature touched upon numerous themes and usual characteristic of people. For example, you could see that women approved the relationship in a short period of time, while the fathers were against it from the beginning and took a long time to rethink- it's just to show you that men are more stubborn and women are willing to compromise and see beyond the obvious. You could also easily observe the racism situation, especially in the way people looked at them, instantly judging and frowning at the unlikely pair. It was very uncommon to see mixed-race couples back then, so of course it raised a lot of eyebrows, plus people weren't  as open-minded as today, so things were even worse than you would expect.

From a filmmaking point of view, the best aspect of the movie was definitely the script- the dialogue was good, the storyline was interesting, it raised a lot of questions and it was funny at some points; just the right mix of things in order to make the film very enjoyable. The direction and cinematography matched the vibe of it very well and the set and costumes were amazing.

The casting was very good, including world class actors like Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy and Cecil Kellaway. The latter, as Monsenior Ryan, was particularly entertaining and, together with Tillie (Isabel Sanford), formed a great supporting pair.

Overal, `Guess who's coming to dinner` was a fantastic movie, with a good script, that is worth spending 1h and 30-40 minutes in front of the TV or computer!

Jun 5, 2012

Lolita [1997]

The 1997 version of Lolita, made by Adrian Lyne, is apparently more accurate to the book written by Vladimir Nabokov, but not as good as Kubrick's version. It tells the story of a lonely teacher with a secret desire for young women who marries his landlady in order to have her devilish little daughter. After the woman dies in a car accident, Humbert takes the little girl away from camp, to a little journey across country and then to school, starting a forbidden affair that drives him mad by the end.

Jeremy Irons plays professor Humbert with passion, making his otherwise despicable character, a man with a conscious and needs that go beyond his power. Although you disagree of what he is doing to the little girl, you cannot deny the fact the man is sick and that he is not doing it with an ulterior motive or because a twisted fantasy. The tragic death of his first love at 14 stopped time for him from a sexual point of view and so, he is only attracted to 14 year-olds. You might say I am defending him or trying to justify his actions, but I don't think I am- I'm just telling you what I observed and understood from the film. Yes, what he did was unforgettable, but he did for love....and he never wanted to harm her. His naivety and blind passion for the girl made him go to extreme ways in order to protect her and, probably, his most surprising act was the vengeance he prepared for Clare Quilty, the man who was responsible for the rupture between him and Dolores. I could go on and on about his character and what drove him, but I think I might be doing into a controversial territory, so let's go back to Lo, shall we?

Oh, Lolita, you little temptress! The young woman knew exactly what she was doing and although she played the act very well, you could see how easily she understood Humbert's attraction to her and how she decided to act in her favor. Despite the fact that she was young and you could say she wasn't mature enough to realize the consequences of her actions, I think she knew and accepted the situation in order to survive. Here is what I don't get: why did she put up with it? Why did she last that long and then go with Quilty, who was even worse than Humbert? And the most important question: how did she really feel about her father- well, stepfather? At then end, when he visits Lo in her new house, they talk about the past, but I still can't tell how she really felt about it- she seemed to have left it all behind her, but...I don't know, I still don't get it! Dominique Swain was sensational as Lolita- she was very beautiful and she perfectly portrayed the part of a seductive, sensual little girl, with apparently no knowledge of her power over Humbert.

I could go around the bush forever with this story and the two main characters- their relationship is complicated, but I think in order to understand it, you first need to analyze and figure out each one individually- their human nature, their motivation and their needs. It is too much for me to talk about it here and I am sure that if I will read the book, I will probably understand it better, but this is a movie, so maybe I should go back to it.

From a film-making point of view, I could say the film was good. The cinematography was beautiful and I liked the random close-ups and weird camera movement that was used to express Humbert's panic or despair, plus the score was remarkably pleasant and appropriate to the story, but overall I didn't find anything special. After it ended, I quickly resumed my activities and forgot about it in 10 minutes. That's not a great sign of a particularly interesting movie, isn't it?

Jun 3, 2012

Brief encounter [1945]

Directed by David Lean, Brief Encounter tells the story of a man and woman who fall in love with each other after they meet in a train station. Celia Johnson plays the delicate, quiet Laura Jensen, mother of two and happily married to Fred, and Trevor Howard is Alec Harvey, a courteous young doctor whose wife and kids at home don't stop him from pursuing Laura.

The first scene captures your attention, as you can easily see the hidden messages and feelings that are transmitted between the two lovers in the refreshment room at the Milford Junction, only using the eyes and stares. They are not touching or talking, but you can sense something is going on. Well, the viewer can, because the rude acquaintance of Laura certainly doesn't, as she interrupts them and starts talking and talking, without caring about the people around her. This is where we get a glimpse of the sad woman's thoughts, as he hear her inner voice telling us "I wish she would stop talking". This way of narrating the story continues at home, as she decides to tell Fred, her husband, about the love story between her and Alec, but only manages to do it mentally. The storyline is pretty simple and straight forward and I liked the fact that their romance started rather normal, from acquaintances to friends, then lovers, as miss Jensen starts explaining to her husband how they met and why she is feeling so terrible now.

I love the 1940s, 1950s movies for many different reason. First of all, I am always impressed with the lighting in black and white films- I notice it much more here than in color and it always looks amazing. Second of all, and most importantly, I like this decades in cinematography because, back then, the focus wasn't on visual effects, or action, or sets, even costumes- no, the main attraction in a black&white film or any other kind, was the actor, the character and the story it wanted to showcase. In that time, people knew how to express themselves just through their eyes- I could feel and understand what Laura was experiencing just by looking at her face or noticing little gestures that gave her away. It was true acting and it was much more interesting and effective than what we get today (don't get me wrong, there are plenty of wonderful actors today, too, but with different styles). Celia Johnson not only was a beautiful woman, but a very sophisticated and elegant one, as well; her voice was smooth and I loved her accent, although one thing I don't particularly care for in these types of movies is the need to over dramatize everything, by easily crying or getting emotional at every little obstacle. I can't say too much of Trevor Howard, as I feel he wasn't properly showcased, but he did his job wonderfully.

Overall, Brief Encounter was a classic bittersweet noir film, with lovely characters and a sad story that moved me, in some way or another. You should put it on your To See list, although it isn't highly recommended- maybe it's perfect for when you're tired and looking for a short, easy film to take your mind off things.

Jun 1, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

Moorise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson and written by him and Roman Coppola, recently premiered in Cannes to good reviews. It tells the story of two young people from a small island in New England, who decide to run away together, causing the girl's family and the boy's scout troop to work together to try to find the two lovebirds.

The first scene perfectly captures the atmosphere of the film and sets up the tone in both direction and sets and costume designs. The colors are vibrant, the shots are quick and sometimes robotic, with a lot of close-up, but it somehow works perfectly into the story, making it even more appealing.

One of the things that makes Moonrise Kingdom stand out from most of the films I've seen in cinemas recently is the script: it's amusing, but it also moves you; the characters are very likable, but none of them are really happy; it's funny, but in an unassuming, awkward way. It's black and it's white and it's magical. This is probably my favorite thing about the film. Some of the lines are hilarious, the cameos are a breath of fresh air (Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton) and the actors are so well cast, that they deliver it in the most sweet, quirky, yet adorable way. I'm trying to find a way to explain to you the kind of humor you can expect from it, but I can't and maybe it's better this way, so at least you can judge it for yourself. It's not for everyone, but I am sure most will enjoy it.

Acting wise, everyone delivered. Frances McDormand and Bill Murray provided a few laughs and worked well together, although they don't seem to be a good match. Edward Norton was just adorable as the Scout Master Ward and I loved his interaction with the younger boys, and while Tilda Swinton wasn't given enough time to shine, she still did her job wonderfully. The three real stars of the movie which deserve the highest praise were Bruce Willis and the two kids who run away, Jared Gilman and Kaya Wayward. Willis really surprised me in the role of Captain Sharp, a slow minded, but kind man who decides to help them escape, whilst the two youngsters were just outstanding. Their interaction and their chemistry, but most especially, their individual characters and their performance of them were just adorable and a pleasure to watch. I don't want to give too much away, but you'll understand me when you'll see the beach scene when they dance and kiss, or the one between them and Jason Schwartzman, or the very last scene at the house. Without them, the movie would have been nothing.

From a filmmakers point of view, it was very interesting to watch and Wes' technique is not something you see every day- well, at least, I haven't. Like I mentioned before, the way Anderson chose to shoot it was very quick, going from wide to close-ups in a rather abrupt way. It's not very fluid, but then again, the story is made in such a way that it perfectly matches it, as the actions of the kids are awkward and not natural or sometimes realistic. Visually, it's beautiful and I love the colors and the costumes that they used. The score is a little bit out of place, but then again, so is the movie, so yet again, it fits. 

In some ways, I consider it to be this year's Midnight in Paris- I say that because it's a very well made film, quite simplistic in some aspects at the first glance, but with a fantastic script, wonderful star cast and very enjoyable. Maybe it's a bit of a stretch to compare the two, but in my mind, the connection seems right.

Bottom line, Moonrise Kingdom is a joy to watch and it will definitely light up your mood. The film is extremely well done; it's unusual in many ways, but somehow it all works. Wes Anderson just delivered one of this year's best films and I highly recommend you to see it!