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Archive for the ‘romance’ Category

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

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The greatest disappointment was the gross lack of Chuck Norris jokes…

David Norris (see what I mean? oh, and Matt Damon), with the charming smile in one pocket and a sketchy past in the other, rises from his grungy upbringing to run for Senator of New York.  Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) is a professional ballet dancer, spunky and sassy.  After Norris is slaughtered in the election, he stumbles upon Elise in the men’s room (oh, it’s cool, she’s just hiding from security after crashing a wedding).  Their chemistry is fizzling instantly, and their spontaneous kiss is magical.  Her fire and spirit inspire David to give the best speech of his career – catapulting him to a lead in the next election.

The next day, after failing to spill his coffee according to some agenda that a fairly attractive, skinny black man in a hat (Anthony Mackle) is in charge of, he runs into Elise again.  But that wasn’t supposed to happen.  He was never supposed to see her again.  He was never supposed to arrive at work when he did.

More men in hats confront David.  They explain some religious hoo-dah about “men upstairs,” “the chairman,” life-plans that keep the universe in check, human-beings can’t make decisions… stuff like that.  They swear David to secrecy about their existence, otherwise he gets some serious “reset” lobotomy, oh, and he can never have Elise.

Even three years later when chance takes over and he bumps into her again.  It’s not according to plan.  But then this Thompson dude (Terence Stamp) ups the ante.  If they get together, David will never be president, and Elise will never have the dance career that she would have had.  And he decides to show his omnipotence by forcing a sprained ankle on Elise.  David is faced with following his heart vs. following destiny.

Superb premise.  Once things got cooking in the bathroom I was hooked.  Men with hats observing from above, stalking a potential presidential candidate.  The whole thing with the coffee spilling at 7:05 or the world keels over is pretty awesome.  My first question (of many): are we all observed?  The entire bureau seems to focus all efforts on these TWO people.  I mean, that’s cool, that’s a movie, but they barely put forth the effort to make it look like they observed anyone else at all.  The “big reveal” or whatever missed the opportunity to make this look like a universal organization, encompassing every human being who missteps.  Oh well.

Free agency vs. pre-determined destiny.  Being religious myself, these underlying themes are fascinating.  While many believe “the chairman” to be God as we know him, I think of this chairman dude as being a lot more like the devil.  Obviously this isn’t the real world, and in this real world I do choose to believe that God is watching over upstairs.  But he doesn’t intervene in our affairs like those in The Adjustment Bureau do, he gave us choice.  Satan, or whatever, wouldn’t give us that choice.  And that makes us slaves to him.  This is a dystopian society, and things AREN’T supposed to be like that.

Which is where my main problem comes from.  (Sorry for the religious rant in there, bee-tee-dubs.  I couldn’t help it).  Spoilers.  After all their cat and dog antics, David determines his decision.  He wants to be with Elise no matter the cost.  His decision is made and no “chairman” is going to tell him what to do.  So, in an escapade of brilliance, he and Elise depart hand in hand to confront the man who writes the plans, since no one else seems to know why they can’t be together.

Call me a realist, but I wanted there to be a face to the responsibility.  I’m so pleased that this dude came to his humane side and changed the plan just for them to be together.  He’s a real sweetheart.  But, as anticlimactic as it is, I wanted some kind of confrontation between the good guys and the messed-in-the-heads.  Some big speech about letting us choose our destiny, no one can force us to do anything blabbity blah.  But instead, we get some immediate resolution between Elise and David’s story… and nothing for the bigger picture.  What happens to the next person who unknowingly never meets the person of their dreams?  The future remains sadly unaffected and I guess I had a problem with that.

Anyways.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are a fantastic duo, and I knew that would be so two years ago when I first HEARD about this movie.  I’m not even going to attempt to deny my girl-crush on Emily Blunt, she’s a terribly versatile actress and I’ll bank on any film of hers nowadays.  And, well, who doesn’t love everybody’s man Matt Damon.

The theme and mood of the film is a perfect balance between drama and adventurous excitement.  The music is a wonderful accompaniment to the mood, Thomas Newman is a stud.  The pace too was captivating the entire way (though perhaps with one too many jumps to the future), and I was intrigued until the end with its outcome.  It’s a thinker, and everyone knows that I dig that kind thing.

And again, the plot itself was original and fantastically enthralling.  Walking through doors, super hats, men in suits nonchalantly controlling everything.  Though it perhaps didn’t achieve its potential, it is still worth the watch and an exciting ride.  7/10

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Written by laurenthejukebox17

June 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

A Place in the Sun (1951)

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So that George Stevens is pretty cool, huh?

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) lands a job at his rich uncle’s factory, perks excluded.  His humble beginnings spark a relationship with his fellow packaging buddy, Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) in his “eff this” mindset against the taboo no-relationships-in-the-workplace policy.  Alice, or “Al”, is fixated with George, dazzled with his dashing good looks and personality (who wouldn’t be?)  Things get crazy when George meets the enchanting Angela (Elizabeth Taylor), a high-society beauty with rich friends and influence to boot.  Alice is all-but thrown out the window once the chemistry between George and Angela starts fizzling.  But Alice isn’t done with George.  Not even close.  She’s determined to win him back, and she’s got a pretty convincing argument after she ends up pregnant.  But George has other plans.  [don don don…]

This was not was I was expecting.  I expected some sweeping romance between Clift and Taylor, with lots of passionate kissing and emotional music and beautiful scenery.  While this isn’t entirely untrue, haunting romanticism and tragedy encompass the plot.  When Elizabeth Taylor died just a few months ago, this was the first movie I wanted to watch since I had never seen it before (and it’s another one I can check off the AFI top 100 list…)  Go even further back to when I discovered Montgomery Clift, my mom told me that I needed to see A Place in the Sun if I wanted to see one of the most beautiful on-screen couples ever.  Boy was she right.  Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, two beautiful people with beautiful faces and beautiful bone structure, were meant to be together on screen.  I’d argue that this is one of Taylor’s most beautiful films.  She’s classy, refined, and elegant.  And Clift is, well, movie-star dreamy.  Don’t judge.  I am a girl, you know.  I won’t tell you whether or not I drooled at his on-screen presence.  I’ll leave that up to you to figure out.  All handsomeness aside, he’s fantastic in this role.  Just sayin.

The real hero here, however, is George Stevens (won an Oscar).  Somehow he manages to paint the movie on screen.  The cinematography (also won an Oscar) is magnificent and breath taking.  Every camera angle contributes to Stevens’ ideals and overall feel of the story line.  I also feel like Stevens has a remarkably sensitive approach to the subject which, by the end of the film, is pretty grim.  He allows us to connect with the characters and feel the angst and pain.  But he also reminds us of what it’s like to be in love, and that confused hormones aren’t just reserved for teenagers.

This is a remake of the 1931 film An American Tragedy.  Though I have not seen the original, it intrigued me that Stevens’ version features a different title. A Place in the Sun.  After I finished, the title seemed to take on an entirely new meaning.  It was poetic.  Sunshine and warmth in the midst of tragedy.  Finding solace in the heat of a new and exciting relationship and forgetting about the pressing problems of life.  On such a high, one wouldn’t believe how fast it could come crashing down.  But oh it does.

One must not forget Shelley Winters – she’s not easy to overlook with her plain features and feisty, whiny mannerisms.  You can relate to her insecurity concerning the L-Taylor and her bubbling hope that things will work out with George.  Her performance, though not as widely recognized for her lack of star-power, is a highlight and earned her an Oscar nom.

Haunting and tragic, A Place in the Sun is a beautiful film, albeit kind of difficult to watch by the end.  8/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

June 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Jane Eyre (2011)

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A favorite book is not shamed.  Ever since I overcame my Harry Potter movie phobia, I don’t walk into those films with a constant fear of disappointment.  But just the same, it’s been a while since I watched a movie adaptation of a dearly loved book with that edge of fear that your treasure would be thrashed.  I’m pleased to report that Jane Eyre not only didn’t disappoint, but it brought a smile to my face.

In case you are sadly unfamiliar with this classic tale, here’s what’s going down.  This adaptation opens with a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) frantically traipsing some beautiful countryside.  She’s alone, she’s wet, her face looks sad and hurt.  Her hair looks like it was once beautiful before being torn apart by the downpour.   She is taken in my a man and his sisters, a man who’s got muffin chops like nobody’s business (Jamie Bell).  Everything’s spinning, it’s very disorienting.  Who are these people?  Who’s the girl?  As they begin to question her, we are jumped backwards to a memory that obviously belongs to the woman.  She’s now a young girl, eight-years-old probably.

Pause.  As previously mentioned, I love Jane Eyre.  I’ve seen basically every other movie/mini-series ever made.  I read the book twice, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.  I know the story back to front.  This was a bit of a different take.  I was trying to figure where in the story we were, where Rochester man was, and why it seemed like we completely skipped over the climax.  With this being only a two-hour version of a long and detailed book, this was a smart move and helped with us dive into the story without it seeming like a biography.  Which I guess it kind of is, but it doesn’t have that same feel starting in the middle.

Anyways, Jane Eyre had it rough growing up.  Hated by her aunt who took care of her, hated at her sadist boarding school where she lost her one and only childhood friend.  Then she lands a governess job at Thornfield Hall with the young French girl Adele.  Mrs. Danvers (Judi Dench) runs the coop but has a kind heart and accepts Jane.  Later, after Jane is nearly trampled by the mysterious, rude man on a horse, we find out that the mysterious man on the horse is Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender).  She is intrigued by the master of the house, and she becomes a pet of sorts.  Their relationship develops, and so do the mysteries surrounding him.

Jane Eyre is a combination of many genres.  It is definitely a romance.  It is also something of a spooky mystery – an element that is sometimes overshadowed by the romance, but the mystique is awesome.  It is also a drama, and even a tragedy (though not really).  What makes Jane Eyre special is, you know, Jane Eyre. The crossroads she reaches between integrity and happiness has always been moving, and it was not put to shame in this adaptation.  You can feel her pain.  Jane will always be one of the greatest literary heroines ever written and one of my greatest examples.  I can only hope that my own daughters can be as strong as she.

Mia Wasikowska was great.  I would have liked a little more fire in her personality, though she is still wonderful.  She had a great year and this is definitely her best performance to date. I love that she could emulate the intelligence, independence, and integrity that I admire so much in Jane.  Judi Dench, and Jamie Bell are also great secondary characters.  Who steals the show, however, is Michael Fassbender as that sexy SoB.  He so perfectly creates a character that you learn to love despite initial hatred.  Mysterious and dark I couldn’t keep my eyes off him.

The film is also GORGEOUS.  From the get-go I was swept back in time, transported to a new world.  There are a lot of castles, fields, gardens, and woods to capture the eye.  The landscape, combined with the music, help to create the perfect tone for this film.

I think my one complaint is that the two hours FEEL like two hours.  I mean, I’ve seen four hour mini-series of this, and this felt just as long.  I wasn’t complaining, I was loving every second of it.  But it did seem at least a half an hour longer than it actually was.  Which makes me think that they COULD have added more detail in that additional half hour that I ALREADY thought existed.  IMHO.  The constant back and forth in the first fifteen minutes was a little confusing as well.

I love that book, and I now love this movie.  Girls, get yourself a new role model.  Try Jane Eyre.  9/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

May 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm

The Accidental Tourist (1988)

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I really wanted to like this movie.  It’s got two of my favorite things in it: dogs and travel.  It also has a man who hardly cares for either.  I gave an involuntary shiver at him searching for American cuisine in foreign countries – I mean eating Burger King in PARIS?  Sinful.  That hurt me just a little bit.

Anyway, William Hurt stars as Macon Leary (what kind of a name is that anyway?) and he dispassionately writes travel guides for people who hate traveling.  A travesty, yet I guess someone’s gotta do it, so it should probably be Macon Leary.  We meet him at the beginning of the movie in an ICU gazing over his son’s dead body. He and his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) take it hard, but they’re having difficulty coming together over it.  So she leaves him.  And leaves the dog.  Macon falls down some stairs, screwing his mobility and goes to stay with his weird siblings.  They play funny games.  His editor, Julian (Bill Pullman) comes to see him sometimes.  He likes his sister.

Then he meets Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis).  She’s kind of awesome, but also kind of eccentric and definitely quirky.  She’s talkative and forward, and knows a lot about dogs.  He hires her to help him train his own dog.  Then they fall in love, or whatever.  Then everything comes to a big wha-bam in Paris, of course.  The end.

Before you write me off completely, I emphasize that my low opinion has NOTHING to do with it being slow.  On the contrary, I love slow, quiet films (84 Charing Cross Road for example).  What I didn’t like had nothing to do with the story.  It’s like I could see, even almost taste, the beauty and potential of an emotional connection but I was just never truly moved.  The letdown was even more potent with that in mind.

I’ve always loved William Hurt, but the man disappointed me with this one.  It didn’t feel like a story of a hurt man who needs a little attention and lovin’ to make his way to recovery.  No, he was static, he was expressionless.  How could the fiery Muriel even dream of falling in love with him?  His personal journey seemed superficial at best.  He doesn’t even like his own dog…

Geena Davis, on the other hand, was great.  She manages to play the wacky woman with just enough umph yet still grounded in reality to make her likable and not overbearing.  She’s a realistic mother, looking after her son with great care and love.  She’s also realistic in her relationship with Macon.

I’ll admit, the writing is excellent.  Kasdan and Frank Galati know how to run things, and on paper it portrays the beauty that could not be captured on screen.  Something is missing.  I found myself searching for emotion, something that only Davis gave to me.  Okay scratch that, the other actors were also pretty solid (though I don’t care for Kathleen Turner too much), but I did love Macon’s crazy family surroundings and the family dynamic.  As well as Bill Pullman.

The Accidental Tourist was a disappointment.  I wouldn’t go so far as to give up on it forever, but it’d take a lot of will power to get myself to sit through Macon’s monotonous personality for an additional hour and a half.  4/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 15, 2011 at 8:38 pm

quote-of-the-week #10

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I pride myself in being a great listener, but whenever I meet somebody new I find I’m doing all the talking.

Maybe you’re not really such a great listener.

Hmm?

Maybe you’re not such a great listener.

No, that’s not it, I’m a great listener.

~Carter Webb & Sarah Hardwicke, In the Land of Women (2007)

 

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

Posted in drama, movies, romance

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Romeo + Juliet (1996)

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Next time someone hates on gangs dancing in West Side Story, I’ll be asking whether they’ve seen gangs fighting while speaking in Shakespearean dialect…

Yep.  I’m a hater.  But big disclaimer: I’ve always detested those idiot star cross’d lovers.  I’ve read the play, seen it three times, only once have I even remotely enjoyed it – and that was because they were kind of making fun of all those things I hate.  We’ll disregard for the moment that my ninth grade boyfriend played Romeo so it drove me nuts that he was kissing another girl and that every other girl in the junior high was head over heels for him…. totally unrelated.

Needless to say, I didn’t start off on good footing with this.  And I must admit that I have never detested this more.  It isn’t that I’m not used to the extravagant style of Baz Luhrmann – I’m a Moulin Rouge! fan.  It’s… that it doesn’t WORK the same way that it does in Moulin Rouge! In fact, it fails.  It’s a disastrous combination of Hollywood action and Shakespearean themes and dialect.  “Swords” are guns manufactured by ‘Sword?’  Funny.  But dumb more than clever.

It’s set in Verona Beach – but what they mean is stereotypical surfer California.  Pretty sure everyone knows what’s up with this story, but here’s a brief rundown of the mess.  The Montagues and the Capulets are in a turf-battle/family feud dating back to who knows when.  Romeo (Leonardo DiCapprio), a Montague, is depressed and in love with Rosaline.  Then he lays eyes on Juliet (Claire Danes), a Capulet and falls in {deeper?} love.  Ah, the beauty of the forbidden.  Then they frolic in a swimming pool, declare their undying love, Romeo’s good buddy Mercutio (Harold Perrineau – LOST!) gets murdered, Romeo kills the dude responsible, Juliet fakes her death to try and still rock it with Romeo in the end, Romeo believes she’s dead and kills himself, so then she kills herself too and they live happily ever after…. while dead?

On the subject of the plot – what was with that swimming pool crap anyway?  Dra-freaking-matic (don’t judge on the word).

It’s SO overly-colorful, it’s obnoxious.  I again compare to Moulin Rouge. It isn’t artistic and beautiful.  It’s distracting and insulting – like a crappy Tim Burton ripoff.  They’re wearing Hawaiian shirts for heaven’s sake – it’s a punk version of a SHAKESPEARE PLAY.  Seriously?  Luhrmann even has the nerve to show Mercutio as a drag queen at one point.  WTF.  The overtly provocative and modern-day clothing displayed at the masquerade is terribly out of place and, again, obnoxious.  The music is also unrelated and inconsistent.

I’m not against modern-day adaptations of Shakespeare plays.  I think that 10 Things I Hate About You is very clever and entertaining.  Even She’s the Man is kind of funny.  West Side Story is my personal favorite, and that’s dealing with this very story.  I think the main thing that fails here is the awful mismatch of sounding like Shakespeare and looking like The Beach Boys.  Had there been modern-day dialogue to match 20th century feel, it wouldn’t have sucked half as much.  FIrst of all, Leo and C-Danes have no idea how to speak Shakespeare effectively, they’re in way over their heads.  Pete Postlethwaite (the priest) and Miriam Margolyes (the nurse) seemed to be the only two who were even half-realistic.  But really, “art thou mad,” doesn’t work in Cali last time I checked.

The acting actually isn’t that bad, with the exception of Claire Danes.  I’m a huge Little Women fan, and I love her as the meek and quiet Beth March.  Not as the fiery Juliet.  I felt no connection to her, nor in their relationship really.  Leo’s my man, but even he isn’t at his top game – though he’s still probably my favorite part.  Pete Postlethwaite and Miriam Margolyes are definitely the most capable of the bunch, and quite enjoyable to watch.  [Side note, I saw Miriam Margolyes on stage in 2006 as Madam Morrible in Wicked. Cool.]  Everyone else is just background noise.  Paul Rudd (who I love in Friends and Clueless) doesn’t add much, neither does John Leguizamo, Paul Sorvino, nor Harold Perrineau (I actually didn’t like him much at all).

Overall, Romeo + Juliet is a dreadful adaptation to a Shakespearean classic.  I may not even like the original material, but Shakespeare at least knew what he was doing and I respect the man for everything he was capable of.  And this is where crap like Twilight comes from… 2/10

Giant (1956)

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Giant is a giant of a movie.  It’s three and a half hours long and covers two generations of Benedicts, even introducing a third.  It stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean – three very beautiful people.  Man, I’ve asked myself so many times what James Dean’s legacy would be if he hadn’t died… That kid knew how to act and this movie is no exception.  He’s still one of my favorite actors and I adore all THREE of his movies, but he was just getting started!  So sad.

Jordan “Bick” Benedict (Hudson)  is the top dawg in Texas, head of the famous Benedict ranching family, owner of Reata ranch.  He goes to Maryland to buy the horse War Winds and falls in lurve with the brunette hottie, Leslie (Taylor).  She comes back with him to Texas.  Bick’s sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) runs the coop, doesn’t like Leslie, is kinda mean to her horse, but likes the poor cowboy Jett Rink (Dean).

Things get a little crazy when Luz is killed, gives some land to Jett and Jett becomes the big-shot oil tycoon of Texas.  The plot is centered around the rivalry between the Benedict family and Jett.

I’d almost say that this is my favorite epic.  It closely rivals Ben Hur – and that’s a childhood favorite of mine.  Anything longer than three hours gets slow, let’s be honest.  Even Lord of the Rings has the four hundred endings.  But Giant manages the time fairly well, and maintains a steady pace throughout the film.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still freaking long (everything’s bigger in Texas) but it gets the job done in a satisfying, and moving way.  One of its major keys to success is that the cast is smaller than most epics.  We have a clear-cut idea of who all the characters are and their role in the story.  We aren’t scrambling to remember all the forty grandchildren and the five different groups of bad guys.

Elizabeth Taylor is beautiful, oh she’s beautiful.  Even as an old lady towards the end she’s still got class.  Leslie the character is also admirable – she’s feisty and opinionated, anything a girl like me can look up to. I’m not a super-feminist by any means, but I like her fight for a place amongst the boys and respect any such women.

She is hardly the star though.  Rock Hudson is also excellent in his role as the patriarch of the fam.  He’s tough, kind of stubborn, but a good guy.  The Benedict offspring are also well-played.  Carroll Baker is great as Luz II.  Totally didn’t realize that it was DENNIS HOPPER in there until AFTER I’d watched the entire thing though.  I don’t think that makes me an idiot totally.  He’s quite handsome in this – not that he isn’t in his later roles but, ya know, if you’ve seen Hoosiers as many times as I have you’d understand.

James Dean… is awesome.  The method actor that showed the world how to method act.  You feel sorry for him, then you hate him.  His career was abruptly ended during filming, but his performance is nonetheless incredible.  I’d have given him the Oscar – though Yul Brinner’s totally a bare-chested stud I’ll admit.  Either way, James Dean will always be a cinematic icon, even if he’s only got three movies to his name.  Why is it that the talented ones have to die so young?  No one’s going to wonder what Miley Cyrus’s career would have been like if she were to die tomorrow.  But whatever.

Enough with my James Dean praise.  Besides the spectacular acting, the cinematography is spectacular.  If anything were to invite me to Texas and the ranch-life it’d be this movie.  Everything is consistently beautiful, oh how those roaring hills call to me.

George Stevens should also be recognized for this film’s legacy.  The overall feel of the film is moving and sweeps you off your feet.  It’s a great adaptation of an Edna Ferber novel.  Each scene is memorable.  Bick’s final fight in the restaurant, Jett’s lament to Luz, Leslie chewin’ out the boys.

This is a film worth investing three and a half hours for.  And I don’t say that lightly.  If only for James Dean. 9/10