Saturday, June 25, 2011

Midnight in Paris Est Magnifique!

      Woody Allen scores again in his latest film, Midnight In Paris. An amazing, feel-good, romantic comedy from start to finish will make audiences want to take the first flight available straight to France.

     Owen Wilson stars as Gil, a struggling writer who takes a vacation to Paris with his fiance (Inez, portrayed by Rachel McAdams) and family.  Hoping to be influenced by such an enchanting city as Paris, Gil looks to fall in love with the atmosphere, while Inez feels the opposite.  While in the City of Lights, Gil and Inez go sight-seeing, and after a wine tasting party, Gil experiences something unbelievable when the clock strikes midnight. A car from the nineteen-twenties transports him back in time, to the golden age of Paris.  Filled with swanky jazz music, women dancing the Charleston and major figures of the Roaring Twenties, Gil finds himself falling in love with Paris.  The closer he gets to figures such as Picasso (Marcial di Fonzo), Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Stein (Kathy Bates) and Hemingway (Corey Stoll), the more he finds himself drifting from the woman he's supposed to marry. 

        Influenced by the atmosphere and people of the nineteen-twenties makes Gil realise that maybe a life separate from Inez would be better for the both of them.

       Allen's Midnight in Paris is sure to enchant anyone, from the hard-core history buffs to those who haven't given the nineteen twenties a thought since learning about it in school.  Owen Wilson gives a wonderful performance as Gil, who goes decades back to find out who he really is today, and with McAdams at his side, audiences can empathize with what he is going through.  Very historically accurate and sure to charm all, Midnight in Paris is the perfect romantic comedy to see this summer. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Looking for Something? Perhaps it was Borrowed

        Picture this: your best friend just threw you a surprise thirtieth birthday party.  You were expecting it, of course, but you figure to go along with the charade.  After too much partying, she goes home, and you and her fiance are the last to leave.  He suggests to go out, get a few more drinks, and before you know it, the both of you rekindle old feelings from several years ago, and make one of your biggest mistakes yet. 

And thus begins the film adaptation of Emily Giffin's best-selling novel, Something Borrowed. 

       The typical chick-flick opened May sixth this year, and is very perfect for anyone who enjoys something maudlin.  Our heroin Rachel White (portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin), the good-girl, tests her friendship with lifelong-friend Darcy Rhone (Kate Hudson) after spending the night with her fiance, Dex (Colin Egglesfield).  Rachel gets to experience the ultimate cliche of finally getting her chance with the one who is perfect for her, but certain risks come into play.  With the advice of her friend Ethan (John Krakinski), who also faces the follies of love, Rachel goes forth to find out where her loyalties lie. 

       All the feelings harbored since law school between her and Dex have shone through, and in this very sappy adaptation, Rachel realises she needs to decide if she wants to risk losing her best friend or true love.

       Something Borrowed was a decent book; quite the page-turner actually.  Pretty different from the movie however.  Although the film had its moments, it is a bit of a letdown to someone who enjoys Emily Giffin's work.  Throughout the film, SB readers question whether or not Darcy really does have a job, as oppose to Rachel, who is always bombarded with assignments from her law firm.  And where is Hillary, Rachel's co-worker who gives her the girlfriend advice she needs?  Although this film is labeled as a romantic comedy, John Krakinski seems to be the only one providing comic relief; his one-liners will leave audiences quoting him for the rest of the night.  Rachel's character in the book and film seemed pretty consistent, however.  Both of them are indecisive, infatuated and tend to be quite the unreliable narrator.  If Rachel White is the self-proclaimed good girl, how exactly did she wind up having an affair with her best friend's fiance?!

        Don't be forlorn;  Something Borrowed was indeed a pretty good film.  I recommend it for anyone who enjoys sappy chick-flicks, Emily Giffin's books, or John Krakinski's sense of humor. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Singin' in the Rain: Anything but Dreary!

       Go back in time with the revival of the classic Broadway show Singin’ in the Rain at the Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford.  This show, which is complete with a rain machine and a great cast, will leave you wanting to sing and dance….probably in the rain!
      The show begins in the nineteen twenties, when the film industry is booming, flappers and short haircuts are all the rage, and Don Lockwood (Jeremy Benton) and Lina Lamont (Allie Shauer)-an onscreen couple- are the biggest stars in Hollywood.  Their careers as silent film actors bring much fame and fortune to their lives.  However, once the revolution of talking films comes into play, they must adapt and become “talkie stars.”  This is a major struggle however, considering Lina has a voice harsh enough to peel paint.  When Don’s pal Cosmo Brown (Cody Williams) comes up with a plan to save the studio, promising starlet Kathy Selden (Shannon O’Bryan) gets mixed up in a plan to save the company.
       At the Westchester Broadway Theater, a three-course meal (including dessert) is served before the performance.  All the seats are around the stage, giving everyone a full view of the entire show.  This revival of Singin’ in The Rain was especially interesting; for the title scene, a rain machine was used to create the illusion of rain everywhere.  Audience members even got wet from Benton’s dancing (I was in the second row, so I got a bit splashed onto me).
        The sets used were amazing, very closely mimicking that of the 1952 film.  All of the lights and effects used were impressively as well.  Costumes used for the show were absolutely stunning-I really felt like I was in the nineteen twenties.  Short flapper dresses for the girls and sweater-vests for the guys were perfect for the show.  The classic yellow raincoat was also used for the finale.  Though nothing can compare to Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds singing and dancing, Benton, Williams and O’Bryan were a very close second and an absolute thrill to see perform just feet away from me!
        This quintessential musical is perfect for anyone who’s ever dreamed of being a star or just loves singing and dancing in the rain.  All the classic songs are in the show, including “All I Do Is Dream of You,” “Good Morning” and “Moses Supposes.”  The show will be at the theater for only a month more, and tickets are going fast!

Savor Pure Victory with Win Win

Thomas McCarthy’s latest film is “Win Win,” and it is indeed a win in many aspects.  With an amazing cast and fabulous plotline, this feel-good film will leave audiences satisfied from beginning to end.  It opened on March 18th, 2011, and since it has been making all viewers feel like winners for going out to see it.
Paul Giammati’s stars in this film as down-on-his-luck lawyer, Michael Flaherty.  Struggling to make ends meet by being a lawyer by day and wrestling coach by night, he becomes a “guardian” of one of his clients, Leo Poplar (Burt Young) to make an extra $1500 every month.  Little does he know that Poplar’s grandson, Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer), decides to show up to see his grandfather.  Without any other alternatives and to his wife’s dismay (Amy Ryan), Michael lets Kyle stay with him and his family.
Even more surprisingly, Kyle is an amazing wrestler, which just might save Michael’s team from yet another disappointing season.  Things take a turn for the worst, however, once Kyle’s estranged mother shows up and threatens to ruin everything for Michael and Kyle.
Overall, this film is truly amazing.  The entire cast is phenomenal, with leads of Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and Alex Shaffer, who makes his big-screen debut with this smash hit. Giamatti and Ryan’s portrayals of the Flahertys make it easy to sympathize with them, especially in their decisions over the whole Kyle situation.  Shaffer was excellent through the film, and has a bright future ahead of him; I hope to review more films he’s been a part of in the future.
Supporting roles featuring Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavele, and Melanie Lynskey also contribute to make this film as good as it is.  Cannavele especially adds comic relief to all the tenser aspects of the film; I’m still laughing at his vacuous comments.
            “Win Win’s” title truly speaks for the movie itself, and the storyline makes it very tangible for audiences.  It becomes so simple to sympathize with each and every character.  If you desire to feel utterly victorious, “Win Win” is the film to see.

Source Code Explodes with Suspense

“Source Code” is Duncan Ryan’s latest film, a sci-fi thriller that will bring you back in time over and over again, until things….well, blow out of proportion.  The film opened on April 1st 2011, and will keep you on the edge of your seat, begging for more from start to finish.
            The film opens up with Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), waking up on a train, unaware that he is part of a mission to save hundreds of people from a bomb on said train.  Sitting across from him, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) is baffled by his strange behavior.  Then…..BOOM! The train, heading towards Chicago, explodes via bomb, and Stevens is then brought up to speed on his mission-find the bomb and find the bomber before they strike again.  Goodwin, the Force Officer (Vera Farmiga) explains that he is part of the new program, Source Code, which enables Stevens to take over someone’s body for the last eight minutes of their life for the greater good of society.
            This mission blows Stevens’ mind, but saving the lives of hundreds of innocent people gives him the stamina to push forward.
            Duncan Ryan definitely owes it to Quantum Leap, which enables you to take over someone’s body.  This concept was important in order for “Source Code” to be conceived in Ryan’s mind, along with important points in the plot.
            Gyllenhaal’s performance was excellent.  It was easy to feel all of his emotions with him throughout the film.  He was very heroic in his actions, and we can all admire him as the hero Captain Colter Stevens.  Great supporting actresses Monaghan and Farmiga helped make this film a smash hit.
            “Source Code’s” twists and turns are absolutely gripping; such aspects were crucial to make you think about the ending and interpret it.  When films are able to capture your attention and keep you preoccupied after you leave the theater and then some, then they have truly done their job.  If not, what was the point in even spending the eleven dollars on the ticket?  Duncan’s Source Code is a work of art, and I recommend it to anyone, even if sci-fi thrillers aren’t your thing.

Revisiting a Classic: Jane Eyre

Cary Fukunga released his latest film on March 11, 2011, a remake of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre.  This Gothic love story (originally published in 1847) has hit the big screen various times before, but this time Mia Wasikowska was chosen as our beloved heroine.
            The film begins in media res, as Jane seeks shelter after running away from Fairfield Hall, an interesting way to start the film.  It then shortly follows flashbacks to Jane’s forlorn upbringing as an orphan in her aunt’s house, attending the despicable Lowood Institution, a boarding school for girls, and then as a young woman bringing the audience back to Jane’s current position.  Personally, I felt that this was a good choice.  As a child, Jane never really felt as though she had a home or a family, and flashing back to earlier parts of her life truly emphasizes her lack of a sense of belonging.
After attending the torturous institution, Jane finds herself a position as a governess at Fairfield Hall.  This magnificent estate is complete with acres and acres of lush land, along with a castle with mysteries hidden in its walls.  After three months of residency on the estate, Jane finally meets its owner, Mr. Edward Rochester, a pompous, wealthy bachelor.  Unbeknownst to Jane, Rochester hides a terrible secret from her, which changes everything.  As an excellent adaptation of a novel should, its themes of “love and passion,” along with “morality” weren’t left out; they proved themselves to be the glue to hold the whole film together.
During production, the writers of the film wanted to really play up the Gothic elements of the novel, making it one of its darker adaptations.  Fukunaga stated, “I’ve spent a lot of time rereading the book and trying to feel out what Charlotte Brontë was feeling when she was writing it. That sort of spookiness that plagues the entire story… there’s been something like 24 adaptations, and it’s very rare that you see those sorts of darker sides. They treat it like it’s just a period romance, and I think it’s much more than that.”  He was very successful in doing this, which was probably why the ending of the novel was abridged to keep up with the Gothic tone.
Mia Wasikowska did a fabulous job as the titular role.  She delivers such passion, and her performance is hailed to be possibly the best as Jane Eyre adaptations are concerned.  Wasikowska and her co-star Michael Fassbender (Rochester) give audiences much satisfaction; they did such a flawless job.  Their expressionisms and body language makes the torment and attraction of Jane and Rochester very tangible for viewers.  Since the entire book’s dialogue didn’t make it to the big screen, what remained unspoken compensated.
Although a few aspects of the novel were eliminated which I thought would have truly made the film absolutely perfect, everything else about it made me forget about any of its flaws, hence a wonderful film.

No Adjustment Required for this Film!

  March 4, 2011 was the release of George Nolfi’s latest film, “The Adjustment Bureau.”  “Bureau” is loosely based on a short story called “The Adjustment Team” by Phillip Dick.  This Twilight Zone-esque story was published in Orbit Science Fiction in 1954.  In order to turn it into a feature film, certain adjustments were made to make this possible.
          This film embodies the timeless theme of fate vs. free will by following the fictitious politician David Norris.  Norris (portrayed by Matt Damon) is moments away from making a speech after losing an election, when he meets the beautiful dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt).  Even though they had just met, Norris believes he is in love with her, but their encounter was not “according to plan.”
            This “plan” is the course of Norris’s life, and by meeting Elise, everything that can happen in the future will change from just that event.  An elusive group of men kidnap Norris, and explain to him that his career will take him where he wants it to (and then some) if he never sees Elise again.  These men, Adjusters, warn that if Norris makes any detrimental decisions or exposes the adjusters, he will be “reset” via lobotomy.  Failure to keep them apart was Harry Mitchell’s responsibility (Anthony Mackie), Norris’s specified adjuster.  Such an experience shocks Norris, but by happenstance, he runs into Elise again three years later.  No matter what the Adjustment Bureau says or tries to do, Norris will not stay away from Elise. 
            Free will vs. fate is clearly depicted in this remarkable film.  David Norris must make the ultimate decision; having a successful career or pursuing a relationship with Sellas.
            Matt Damon’s performance as the up-and-upcoming politician David Norris is outstanding.  In the past, he has been nominated for various awards in the film industry, and he doesn’t disappoint in the “Adjustment Bureau.”  His onscreen chemistry with Emily Blunt is very believable.  They worked so well together, and it truly paid off in this film.  Mackie deserves much praise for his supporting role of Norris’ adjuster; his part in the film was very critical.
            This film’s representation of free will vs. fate will make people wonder why everything happens for a reason, and why one event can possibly change the course of a lifetime.  I recommend this film to all; the Twilight Zone-esque elements of it keep the movie going.  All the twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat begging for more.

The King's Speech Speaks for Itself

   One of the best films of the year (if not THE best) is “The King’s Speech.”  It was released on December 24, 2010 in the United States.  This historical drama follows the life of England’s King George VI in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and how he must overcome his speech impediment of stammering.
          Being part of the royal family, Prince Albert, Duke of York (Firth) must attend to royal duties, such as speech-making and public appearances.  Due to his stammer, Albert has much difficulty with these tasks.  After many failed attempts to cure him, his wife, the Duchess (Helena Bonham Carter) convinces him to see an Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who lives in London.
        Albert first objects to it, but finally goes.  While there, Albert feels harassed by Logue from all the personal questions he asks him.  What really frustrates him is when Logue asks him to read a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet while simultaneously listening to classical Mozart music.  Sure that he stuttered throughout the speech, he leaves in a huff with the recording Logue made of him speaking.  It is not until after their first session together that Albert and the Duchess realize Logue is different from all the physicians he had seen, and is able to help him with his speech impediment.  The recording Logue had made of Albert speaking is free of stammers, which is the most remarkable breakthrough they had ever seen.  Throughout the film, Albert makes progress in overcoming his stammer with the assistance of Logue.
         Colin Firth delivers completely as the stammering King George VI.  One of his best performances earned him an Academy Award, and his “stammer” was incredibly convincing.  He and his supporting actor, Geoffrey Rush, had remarkable on-screen chemistry.  In real life, George VI and Logue became life-long friends, and both actors portrayed such a friendship wonderfully.  Rush also provides some comic relief to the film with his brilliant one-liners.    Helena Bonham Carter was perfect for the role of the Duchess of York. Widely praised for her performance, she satisfied all.
          Screenwriter David Seidler as a child developed a stammer from post-traumatic stress caused by the murder of his grandparents during the Holocaust.  He then became inspired by George VI, a king who had to overcome a stutter. He said, “Here was a stutterer who was a king and had to give radio speeches where everyone was listening to every syllable he uttered, and yet did so with passion and intensity.”  He decided to research the king as an adult, but came up with a dearth of information on Logue.  He then interviewed Logue’s son, and got permission to make a film about George VI from the Queen Mother, George VI’s wife.  She objected for it to be done during her lifetime, so when she passed away in 2002, he began developing the film.  
          At the eighty-third Academy Awards, “The King’s Speech” won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), and Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler).  These awards were well-deserved, and although “The King’s Speech” didn’t win all twelve of its nominations, there is no reason as to why you shouldn’t see such a film that’ll leave you speechless!

True Grit Impresses All

TRUE GRIT (2010); written and directed by the Coen Brothers, does more than just remake the 1969 film starring John Wayne.  True Grit was originally a 1968 serial publication penned by Charles Portis.  It told of the adventures of Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year old girl looking to avenge her father’s death by going after his killer, Tom Chaney.  His stories were published in the Saturday Evening Post, and the story line was a bit different.  Eventually, the compilations were made into a novel, and then a movie, and then, the 2010 version.
            True Grit takes place in the latter half of the eighteen hundreds in the western half of the United States.  It is the story of a fourteen year old girl, Mattie Ross (portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld), who is in pursuit to avenge her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).  Being that she cannot go hunt down Chaney by herself, she gets three recommendations for bounty hunters, but chooses U.S. Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn because he has, what they call, “true grit.”  He also knows the lay of the land, which is critical because Mattie doesn’t.
            Cogburn agrees to Mattie’s terms, but tricks her and embarks on the journey without her along with Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), LaBoeuf had been pursuing Chaney for killing someone in Texas, and wants to bring him to justice for his death penalty solely for the death of the Texan.  The determined young protagonist, however, catches up to the odd couple and they continue their journey.
            Mattie and Cogburn separate at one point from LeBoeuf.  Mattie and Cogburn take refuge at a house at one point, and they rejoin the Texan ranger after an attack on the shack where refuge is taken.  However, their action-filled journey brings them back together for avenging Tom Chaney.
Ethan and Joel Coen felt that when making an updated version of True Grit, it should mirror the novel more than the old version of the film.  Before shooting, Ethan Coen had said, “It’s partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humour in both the situations and in her voice.” 
With this, Bridges was an excellent selection to portray Cogburn, with a very comical performance.  Being the drunken U.S. Marshall past his prime, he rambled and stumbled all over the place throughout the movie.  I must admit, it was hard to take him seriously when he really tried to pull it all together to take on anyone they met whilst on their journey.  However, I don’t see why we should take him seriously as Cogburn to start with; the movie was meant to be comical.
Hailee Steinfeld, only fourteen years of age, is a promising young actress.  She was perfect for the role of the “gritty” Mattie.  Movie-goers everywhere were impressed with her performance; Steinfeld has a bright future ahead of her.
            Matt Damon, too, did not disappoint as Texas ranger LaBoeuf.  He balanced out Cogburn’s possible sanity with his pragmatic ideas of how to hunt down Chaney.  His sarcastic remarks add more comic relief to the film.
            “True Grit” is a phenomenal movie.  It is currently nominated for ten Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.  The innovative reproduction of the 1969 classic will satisfy all Western fans, and then some as well.

Harry Potter 7 Part 1 is Absolutely Brilliant

           On the evening of Thursday, November 18th, eager Harry Potter fans waited in line to see the midnight premiere of J. K. Rowling’s much-anticipated film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Across the country, over one thousand theaters were sold out from advance tickets sales.  The masses of crowds rushed in once the doors were open, and, to their delight, they were very satisfied with the movie.
             “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” was worth the wait of fifteen months, since the film prior to it (“Half Blood Prince”) came out in theaters in July 2009.  The producer David Heyman felt that in order to truly capture the essence of the last novel, the book should be broken up into two movies, as opposed to having to shove it all together in two and a half hours.  Thus, the film was shot back-to-back and treated as though it was one film.  Although it means waiting until July of 2011, it will be very much worth it with Part 1 satisfying our hunger for Harry, and then some!
         Following up where ”Half-Blood Prince” left off, the late school headmaster Albus Dumbledore has left our protagonists-Harry, Ron and Hermione-a task to destroy parts of Voldemort’s soul, which he places in various horcruxes (for those Muggles out there, a horcrux is an object that someone places a bit of their soul into once they kill someone.  Allegedly, if you divide your soul up enough, you can become immortal).
          Voldemort’s power is growing as he and the Death Eaters take over the Ministry of Magic.  With the increase of strength, many people are fearful to support Harry’s cause, even though he is the better of the two.  In a similar fashion to Hitler, Voldemort seeks to purify the masses and seek out Muggle-born people who are wizards.  Interrogation courts are set up, and with the assistance of his Nazi-like Death Eaters, he carries out his plans.
          Abandoning their seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the three set out to complete their mission and fulfill the prophecy, which states neither can live while the other survives (that would be Harry and Voldemort).  Along the way, Harry, Ron and Hermione encounter many obstacles involving Polyjuice Potion, house elves, and Death Eaters.
           Although movie-goers and Harry Potter fans mourn the losses of Hedwig, Mad-Eye Moody and Dobby the House elf, the film surely makes up with lots of comic relief, probably the epitome of humor in all the movies so far.  The awkward moments never seems to end, especially for Ron with his vacuous comments.
          Closely following Rowling’s plotline, director David Yates outdid himself and really followed through with many minute details.  The dialogue really follows along with that of the novel, and anything left out was so minor that it would barely be noticed.  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint do anything but disappoint; their onscreen chemistry is amazing, and will continue to grow stronger once the final installment hits theaters next summer.  
          The dark follow-up of “Half-Blood Prince” lives up to expectations, and really shows how the magical world is morphed from Voldemort letting all hell break loose.  Now, in July 2011, it will be up to Harry to take on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the last installment of the famous Harry Potter series.  The epic battle scene of Hogwarts and the ultimate good vs. evil showdown of the wizarding world will hopefully live up to this amazing, dark, humorous film!