Long Time

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It has been extremely hectic lately and I am so sorry, Faithful Readers, that I have not posted in a long time. So, I will just write what I have seen and provide a capsule review of each.

 

Doubt

The John Patrick Shanley translates to the screen well mostly because of its stellar cast. Meryl Streep as the suspicious Mother Superior, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a priest accused of inappropriate behavior with a young boy, and the charming Amy Adams as the young novice who brought the “case” to Streep. Shanley’s direction is fine and the play itself is mesmerizing, leaving you at the end only with Doubt.  Grade: A-

The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke is back! An emotionally heart wrenching film about an aging wrestler and what would be his comeback appearance and his attempts to bond with his daughter. A fantastic film and having thought about, I think the Oscar should have gone to Rourke and not Penn. The performances are so raw (kudos to Marisa Tomei as Randy’s stripper love interest and Evan Rachel Wood as his daughter) that it’s not as if we are watching a movie, but a documentary about a falling star. More like plummeting.  Grade: A

Happy-Go-Lucky

Oh, how the meek will inherit the earth. Unless the realists get to them first. A positively brilliant Mike Leigh film starring an irrepressibly optimistic school teacher named Poppy. Poppy has her bike stolen. Poppy is happy nevertheless. She decides she needs to learn how to drive and gets an instructor that is her polar opposite. Hilarity and heart warmth ensue. An extremely fantastic performance from Sally Hawkins, whom the Academy did not even nominate. She deserved to win. Odd ball and featuring one of the best performances of the year (2008, at least). If I had been the instructor, I would have pushed her out of the car.  Grade: A-

Dangerous Liaisons

An absolutely decadent cast (John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Uma Thurman) with an incredibly sumptuous plot. The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) calls on her partner, the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), to seduce the young daughter of her cousin, Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz), in order to have revenge on a former lover, the man to whom young Cécile de Volanges (Uma Thurman) is promised in marriage. At first, Valmont refuses her proposition: he wants to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is spending time at his aunt’s house while her husband is abroad. With beautiful costumes and directing, a top notch cast, and an incredible director, Stephen Frears, this is one heck of a film.  Grade: A+

Three…Extremes

Three short horror films from three Asian directors. What do they add up to? One hell of a terrifying ride! Dumplings, directed by Fruit Chan (what an ironic name! Hong Kong) is about a woman who starts to eat mysterious dumplings to restore her youth. The secret ingredient will make you more than nauseous. Cut, directed by Park Chan-wook (South Korea), is about a horror film director taken hostage by a berserk film extra. Effectively scary. Last but not least is Box, directed by Takashi Miike (Japan, famous for Ichi the Killer and Audition), a very enigmatic film about a woman hanuted in her dreams by the ghost of her sister, whom she murdered when they were little out of jealousy. While a little confusing, it is ultimately a very suspenseful film. Overall, the trios are great and do what they are meant to do: Scare the bejesus out of you!  Dumplings: A  Cut: B  Box: B+  Overall: A-

Cruel Intentions

Dangerous Liaisons for the Gossip Girl generation! Essentially the same plot of the classic film, if for more explicit language and sex. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Philippe play the conniving characters, while the young virgin is played by Selma Blair and the virtuous girl played by Reese Witherspoon (both would be back together for Legally Blond). With adults, the story is erotic and sexy and classy, but with teens in a prep school-it’s just really icky! Really awkward and uncomfortable as well as gross. The acting is average and the overall point of the story is made less meaningful when you add teenagers to the equation.  Grade: C-

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Overlong story of a man who ages backwards, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 20 page short story. Bloated in running time: 2 hours and 47 minutes. Brad Pitt is rather bland as Button not to mention that his Louisiana accent is a thin as paper. The CGI, while excellent, felt excessive at times for the character of Button. Cate Blanchette is excellent as Daisy, Ben’s love interest. The movie is constantly interrupted by scenes in a hospital (it is told to a young woman’s mother, Daisy, as a journal Ben left for her) which wouldn’t be as annoying if they were less frequent. The math of aging backwards isn’t quite right either. Ben ages very rapidly during the first 90 minutes and when he hits Brad Pitt age, he seems to slow down. Daisy as a woman also doesn’t age rapidly enough. When she’s twenty to when she is 45 she looks virtually the same, albeit the hair color fades a little. It isn’t until the final half hour or so does she really age. David Fincher is great as director. Good, but not great, film.  Grade: B

Up

Pixar’s tenth feature film about an old curmudgeon heading to South America with a young boy is very good. Though, I think it is Pixar’s most blatantly preachy film they have released so far. The animation is stunning as usual, but the story itself feels as if its message is being shoved in your face. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic film. The character of Russell just bursts with exuberance. I particularly enjoyed the short film preceded by Up, called Partly Cloudy, about rain clouds who create babies and other cure animals for storks. One certain cloud, a little rain one, ends up creating the most dangerous things and the poor stork who ends up having to take them away ends up with man an injury. Extremely cute and heart warming, it may be the highlight if you don’t like UpPartly Cloudy: A+  Up: B+

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