Sunday, February 24, 2013

Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies--Twilight with zombies?

Not really.  There is no love triangle, for one.  Just a zombie interested in a human girl.  He sort of walks around like Frankenstein and grunts.

I think the movie is supposed to be more like Romeo and Juliet than Twilight as the main characters names are "R" and "Julie" and there is a balcony scene where R calls out to Julie from below.  The movie came out around Valentines Day, which was some pretty smart marketing.

I watched it for love, for escapism, for a world set right--and it delivered all those elements.  It's PG-13.  I think parents can enjoy it with their teens.  I wasn't scared once.

The director of this movie, Jonathan Levine, did 50/50 and adapted this screenplay from the novel by Isaac Marion.

I thought Nicholas Hoult (the kid from About a Boy!) as a zombie that can only grunt a few words out at a time did a really good job.

I liked the actor who played his best friend "M" (Mercutio?) as well, Rob Corddry.  I liked that his best friend was a guy a lot older than him.  Did you know that in PG movies, the f-word can only be used once so you have to make it count?  Well, in this movie, M gets to say it.

Julie, played by Teresa Palmer, is sweet.  Her dad, played by John Malkovich, is not that threatening--I don't really get that casting choice.

One of the best parts of the movie is the set designs.  The airport gone apocalyptic, the suburbs gone apocalyptic--very visual stuff.

The next best thing, for me, were the dream sequences, even though they happen from R eating someone's brain (ew!).  I don't know how they pull off that kind of fuzzy outlined--highly lit dream sequences but they were ethereal and they contrasted well with the dark zombie world where most of the movie takes place.

The music choices?  Very retro--from Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" to Guns n' Roses "Patience."

How come the bodies were getting warmer?  I never figured that out.  It can't just be "love," can it?

I haven't read the book by Isaac Marion yet, but I do like to read the book AFTER the movie, so I'll let you know.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Princess Bride (1989)

"The Princess Bride" won the poll this week, "What movie should I show my film class on Valentine's Day?" over the movies "Annie Hall" and "Harold and Maude." I guess the other two movies, though perhaps more brilliant, are arguably more of a downer and definitely lesser well known.

"The Princess Bride" is a great example of framed narration, a movie told with two stories, the frame story (in this case the story of the grandfather and his grandson) and the embedded story (here, the story of Wesley and Buttercup).

"The Princess Bride" was directed by Rob Reiner  (his third movie after "Spinal Tap" and "The Sure Thing") and written by William Goldman based on the book he wrote in 1973, sixteen years before the movie came out in 1989!!! Needless to say, the project changed studio hands and directors a few times.

In the commentary, Reiner explains that the movie was hard to market from the beginning because it was kind of an "oddball" movie. It doesn't fit into any one genre.

However, over time, the movie became popular due to its great performances and one liners that made their way into pop culture, lines like "As you wish," and "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

This movie also had the incredible low low budget of 16 million dollars. It was filmed on location and on sound studios in Sheffield, England.

 Wesley and Buttercup

Robin Wright who plays Princess Buttercup was only 19 coming fresh off the soap opera "Santa Barbara" (which I used to watch religiously)!

Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin (now popular on the tv show "Homeland") practiced sword fighting endlessly for five months so that's them doing all the sword fighting in the movie (except for the flips).

Other great performances in this movie include Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Wallace Shawn, Peter Cook, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Fred Savage, Peter Falk, and Andre the Giant.

"Marriage is what brings us together today."

Every time I watch this movie, I wonder how the stunt doubles for the main characters don't break their necks rolling down a really steep hill.

I am also grateful that the princess is a pretty strong and brave character, never whimpering around giant eels and very large rodents.

This movie is definitely a classic that can be enjoyed both by parents and their children. Definitely watch it if you haven't already no matter what age you are.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Do the Right Thing (1989)

This week in film class we watched Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and talked about cinematography especially.  Every time I see this film, I notice another layer of meaning.

This movie shows racial tensions in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on the hottest day of the summer.

As serious as this movie is, it has so many funny moments as well and it was great to see the movie with an audience and see everyone laughing so much.

Ernest R. Dickerson, the cinematographer, uses expressionist techniques to show the intense heat of the day such as painting an entire wall red.

The movie begins with Rosie Perez dancing to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" in a sea of red light in front of a row of stoops that is an homage to West Side Story.

Many canted angles are used to show the increasing tension as the day goes on.

But this movie is about LOVE just as much as HATE.  Radio Raheem, a character who walks the streets with the largest boom box wears both of these words, rings, one on each hand.

He has a monologue much like the one Robert Mitchum does in Night of the Hunter, another movie with expressionistic cinematography and beautiful lighting.

There are so many great performances in this movie by so many actors including Spike Lee himself, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Joie Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, John Savage, Samuel L. Jackson, and more.

At the beginning of the movie, Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) tells Mookie (Spike Lee) to "Do the Right Thing." Does he?  At the end of the movie, Mookie does something that causes a riot to break out.  It's not obvious that he does the right thing but I think he does--one could argue that the riot is a diversion for the need people have at that moment to kill somebody.

Does Sal, the owner of the pizza joint Sal's pizzeria, have the right to only put photos of Italian-Americans up on the wall or should he like Buggin' Out asks put up photos of African-Americans too since all his customers are African-Americans?  Students will always be divided on this issue seeing both sides.

One student wrote on our discussion board later that he had to get pizza after the movie--ha ha.  Try to find a place where extra cheese isn't two dollars.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hello I Must Be Going (2012)

"Hello I Must Be Going" is very funny and sweet.  It's also very well written.  The title comes from a Marx Brothers movie which Amy likes watching to cheer up.

It's about a woman (35) who moves back home with her parents in Connecticut after a divorce from an entertainment lawyer and has an affair with her dad's potential client's son (19).

Three different characters (the mom, the brother, the dad) tell us how important it is for the woman not to screw up this dinner with the client's family which is a bit overkill.

And I don't get why the dad would just give up on her in the end as he has been her ally throughout the whole film.

But this is nitpicky stuff.

The two leads, Amy and Jeremy, really help each other out emotionally and their dialogue is great.

I'm glad we eventually meet her ex.  And yes he's 180 degrees different than Jeremy.

I downloaded the soundtrack too.  It's good. Shazam-worthy.

Amy hitting bottom

I hate the two reviews I've read so far for this movie--one uses football references when there is nothing about sports in this movie and the other one talks about if she's pretty enough to be attractive to a 19 year old! Wtf?#!

Yes, Melanie Lynskey is beautiful and I definitely see the sparks between Amy and Jeremy.  Every time they get together they are all over each other.  And she's whimsical.  And he's not your average 19 year old because he has acting experience playing Robert Mapplethorpe and is about to play Walt Whitman.

This movie leaves me smiling so definitely watch it when you have been wearing ratty t-shirts for a week or you want to down a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

Citizen Kane (1941)

This week my film class covered mise-en-scene (everything in the frame) and Citizen Kane.

If there is one movie that every film teacher has to teach, it has to be Citizen Kane, right?

Every scene has virtuoso shots, brilliant cinematography, great acting. It was Orson Welles' first feature film and he was only 25 at the time! From then on, Orson Welles would still make films but would be given less and less creative control and so none were as good as Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane is the number one movie on American Film Institute's best 100 movies and was also number one on Sight and Sound's list until recently (2012) when Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo bumped it off the number one spot.

Citizen Kane was a hard movie for me to like at first because it is not a love story. At least it's not a love story between Kane and another woman.  It could be considered a love story between Kane and himself.

fish eye lens shot

Once I got over that though, it is mesmerizing to watch the innovation of camera technique, lighting and editing in every scene.

There is a fish eye lens shot from the vantage point of a broken snow globe. There is a shot where the lighting makes a book glow on a table. There is a shot so wide that Orson can walk all the way to where the windowsill is above his head and back.   There are shots where the camera goes in through a neon sign and down into a skylight in the roof.  There is a shot that tracks up and up and up to a catwalk high above a stage. There are low angles so low, Orson ripped up the floor boards to go lower. 

There is a famous montage that shows a marriage of many years at the breakfast table in two minutes.

And more.

The whole thing is a mystery, what did Kane's last dying word mean when he whispered, "Rosebud"?

Even when you know the answer, you can enjoy the film for all the techniques it uses.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cemetery Junction (2010)

A nostalgic 70s movie set in England? I'm so there.  "Cemetery Junction" though obvious about where it's going is still a nice ride.

It takes place in 1973.  Matthew Goode who normally plays the romantic lead now plays a "bad guy." Ralph Fiennes plays a "bad guy."  Not bad so much "bad" as "stodgy" insurance salesmen.  Or guys who need to "piss off." Christian Cooke who plays Freddie, however, is not a bad guy.  Will he learn that he doesn't belong with the likes of them, then?

Felicity Jones who plays "the boss's daughter" is "conveniently for plot purposes" engaged to Mathew Goode and admired by Freddie.  Is it a coincidence that her name is Julie and they've styled her hair like Julie, the hostess "The Love Boat"?

Felicity Jones as Julie
Anyway, carrying on, Julie is quite daft throughout the film until the very end.  (As you can see, I'm trying to put as many English expressions as I can in this review.)  Emma Watson plays Julie's mom in the film.  It was hard for me to see such a wild actress who has been in movies like "Breaking the Waves" play a repressed woman, but that was the part.

Cemetery Junction is the name of the town and apparently, if you live there, you might as well already be dead because you'll just work in a factory, hence the name "Cemetery."

Tom Hughes who plays the tough guy, Bruce, works in such a factory with Freddie's father, played by Ricky Gervais from "The Office," and is always getting into fights because he thinks his dad is a useless drunk who watches telly all day.  I LOVE how the story plays with this stereotype at the end of the film.  Bruce's character and his black leather jacket so reminded me of Matt Dillon in "The Outsiders."

My favorite part of the film occurs when Bruce hears that his friend Snork wishes to sing and he makes it happen.  Bruce talks to the band at an insurance ball and gets his mate Snork a chance to sing with the band.  In the audience, Bruce smiles and gives Snork a wink of encouragement. To me, this is a very sweet moment of friendship between the lads.

And so I ended up spending a lot of the time during this movie wondering, "Well, is there going to be a bird for Bruce, then?"

I must say, there is a significant lack of snogging in this movie.

The themes of the film are great ones.  Look out for your mates, avoid all things predictable, there is someone out there for everyone, and if some fine woman sets down a cup of tea for you, for God's sake, say thank you.