Archive for the '2013 Movies' Category

Jane Eyre: ALL the Adaptations!

Monday, November 10th, 2014

I CANNOT believe I didn’t blog about all the Jane Eyre adaptations I watched a year ago when I read Jane Eyre for my book group Gods & Monsters. I wrote about all the Jane-related book reading I did here and thought I wrote about the movies. In fact, I so don’t believe it I need to go check again…

OMG what kind of blogger am I that I watched seven (7!) adaptations of Jane Eyre last year and never wrote to tell you about them? Well, I better get started. Alas, the binge watching of seven adaptations and the passage of a year haven’t left me with sparkling details but I’ll do my best. If I had it to do again, I’d make notes as I went comparing things like the falling-off-the-horse scene, the burning bed scene, the attic scene, Pilot the dog, the relative ages and attractiveness of the characters (Joan Fontaine and Susannah York were ridiculous as Jane, both too pretty and too old). I wish I could remember which Jane was whiny, which pouty, which weepy, etc. This really does beg for a spreadsheet. Or is that TOO much nerdish obsessing? Reader, with Jane Eyre, is there such a thing?

1944jane 1943: screenplay by John Houseman and Aldous Huxley, starring Orson Welles (Mr. Rochester), Joan Fontaine (Jane), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Reed), and a VERY FAMOUS ACTRESS in her first, uncredited role. This one is entertaining to see Welles chew scenery and barely fall from his horse at all, but Fontaine is a disappointingly wimpy Jane.

1970jane 1970: starring George C. Scott and Susannah York. Music by John Williams, which was painful to listen to. Guess he needed those next 7 years to become awesome for Star Wars. York way too old and glam to play Jane, but George C was surprisingly decent, probably the least conventionally handsome of all the Rochesters. If I remember correctly, he was also the most physically scarred at the end–I think he was missing a hand. Some Rochesters barely looked any different.

1983jane 1983: 6 hours! with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton. Zelah had the right look, but was too old for the part, and she was on the wimpy side. My favorite part was the scene after the almost wedding where she leaves her bedroom and Rochester is in the doorway. This adaptation was long and unthrilling in other ways, but that particular scene was outstandingly hot. Again, sorry, can’t recall, but if any of them had Rochester cross dressing as the gypsy, it was this one. Not sure it did, though.

1996jane 1996: directed by Franco Zeffirelli, starring William Hurt (Mr. Rochester), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Jane). I liked Gainsbourg as Jane, but detested Hurt as Rochester; he’s blond and American and just wrong.

1997jane 1997: Ciarán Hinds and Samantha Morton. The age difference, and Hinds not being conventionally handsome, and Morton as young and plain all worked in this one but I remember little of it. Hinds might have been the most bi-polar of the Rochesters.

2006jane1 2006: 4 hour BBC miniseries of Ruth Wilson (currently in The Affair) and Toby Stephens (son of Maggie Smith!). A solid production, but the most memorable part of it for me was the ending: there was a huge family picture, with a miniature painting of St. John added like they do in reunion photos, plus Grace Poole was shown holding the baby. They redeemed surly drunk Grace Poole!

2011jane2011: directed by Cary Fukunaga, starring Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Michael Fassbender (Rochester) and Judi Dench as (Mrs. Fairfax). This was my favorite. Fassbender might be too handsome for Rochester, but he got the crazy just right. Wasikowska was pale and slight and young and very like Jane: strong willed and impressive. This was perhaps the only one that didn’t open with Jane as a girl, but rather with her wandering the moors, then jumps around in time. I didn’t care for Jamie Bell as St. John–not handsome enough, and very easy to resist in this version.

So that was the second part of last year’s Vast Eyre-Bender (pun courtesy of friend Vince). 7 adaptations and about 20 hours.

This year, the book group is reading Wuthering Heights for November. And I’ve been nerdishly obsessing about adaptations. Guess how many are possible to lay hands on? ELEVEN.

The list goes to ELEVEN.

Not sure I’ve got that kind of stamina. The discussion’s on 11/30/14. We’ll see.

Movies since (gulp) May

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Little behind on this. What have y’all been watching; anything worthwhile?

Miller’s Crossing. My husband’s favorite movie. I think my favorite of the serious Coen Bros. movies. They alternate “funny” and “serious”; did you know?

Breakfast Club, Magic Mike, and Bridesmaids: with girlfriends, eating chocolate, drinking wine. Cliche? Maybe. Super fun? You betcha.

The Decoy Bride. Adorable Scottish rom-com, free on Netflix, starring David Tennant.

The Sting. Part of a Redford/Newman binge. Music and movie so good.

Smashed. Husband sat this earnest indie out. Didn’t love.

Cold Light of Day. Alas, really bad.

Much Ado About Nothing. Super charming, and Sean Maher made a GREAT Shakespeare villain.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2: with the kids. They loved the movies; I found all but #3 forgettable.

Killing Them Softly: decent, but with a sledgehammer message throughout that detracted.

Captain America, Avengers: girlfriends, wine, chocolates again.

Holy Motors
: so weird. More of an experiment than a film. Critics loved it.

Princess Mononoke
: with the kids. Glad we waited for this one; super violent.

Burn After Reading
. Didn’t get great reviews, but I like it and LOVE Brad Pitt being funny. He should do that more often.

Pitch Perfect. Again. New classic. B movie, but love anyways. Aca-scuse me?

Vanishing Point. With the husband, in preparation for

Deathproof. Tarantino. As usual, overly violent, but worthwhile. Fascinatingly, passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: with kids, again. Love this cussin’ movie. Hot Box!

Sixteen Candles. With the GFs. Jake Ryan 4ever! Also love the scene with her dad.

Big Trouble in Little China. Kurt Russell again. Silly fun.

Rio Bravo
, with the kids, who liked it lots.It’s one of my husband’s favorites, I don’t think I’d seen it all the way through. Apparently, Tarantino screens this for girlfriends to see if they’ll be compatible. One of the boys: “Dude (Dean Martin) is a really good singer!”

Men in Black, with the kids. They liked it a lot.

Prometheus. Some good stuff like my boyfriend Michael Fassbender as a non human, Idris Elba singing a line from a CSN song, and a tense surgery scene that will live in memory forever, but overall kind of a mess.

Sneakers. With the kids, who had fun.

Bring it On. Meaning to watch it since reminded of by Pitch Perfect. Fun, but not an essential.

To Be or Not to Be by Lubitsch. Lovely Criterion Collection. I see echoes of it in QT’s Inglourious Basterds.

Watch This: The Hollow Crown on PBS

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Henry V

Attention Shakespeare geeks, or even better, people who are afraid of Shakespeare:

PBS is running a series of film adaptations called The Hollow Crown of four of Shakespeare’s most famous history plays: Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and 2, and Henry V.

Playing the part of Prince Hal/Henry V? Tom Hiddleston, aka Loki from the Marvel movies. Squee of geek joy.

Ahem, also, he is a very fine dramatic actor, as evidenced by his work in such films as The Deep Blue Sea and Midnight in Paris.

Showing tonight, Friday 9/20/13 and the next three Fridays.

The Movie Update

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Oops. I’ve accidentally now watched more movies this year than I’ve read books, and have been reading a bunch of graphic novels, so it isn’t even like there are chunksters slowing me down. For a while I stopped requesting DVDs from the library because the queues were so long. Now I’m back in the habit. And a habit it is, in the negative sense of the word, when my husband has to warn me to stop using his account to reserve things or he’s going to change his password.

I can’t even blame recent binges or Blu rays from Half Price Books, since none of the recent viewings are from recent used purchases. Sigh. I suppose there are worse habits to have.

Django Unchained
(2012) Hyper violent, of course, it didn’t impress me as Inglourious Basterds did. Good, but overlong and unfocused. I do like the revisionist history/wishful thinking aspect that it shares with IB.

Pitch Perfect.(2012) Flawed, but charming, like a real person. Don’t have high expectations, and it’ll be fun. Geek note: I bought the soundtrack, plus Kelly Clarkson’s Greatest Hits after watching it.

Dredd (2012). This I borrowed from the library because I thought my husband would like it and I watched it too. Hyper violent, again, but with dark humor, and an intriguing villain.Like V for Vendetta, this comic-book adaptation made more sense when it was grounded in Thatcher’s England.

(1995). I was reminded of it when I saw this article on game theory. Charming and fun, but a little low on the acting quotient. Paul Rudd has come a long way.

Iron Man 3.(2013) Date night. Glad I saw it before anything got spoiled, ’cause there’s loads of stuff to spoil. But overloud, overlong, and over ’splodey. Towards the end stuff was going down and I just kept thinking, “I’m bored. This is silly. Please move the plot along.” It does set things up interestingly for the future. But I’d say see it at a matinee, though sooner is better because of spoil-i-tude.

P.S. We saw a trailer for The Lone Ranger, that has Johnny Depp playing Tonto, and in Iron Man 3, Ben Kingsley plays a character called the Mandarin. Why are white people playing non-white roles, still? Shouldn’t we have moved past this? Can’t we PLEASE move past this, and have more non-white roles in movies played by non-white actors?

2 Good Indie Movies, 1 Great One

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Through some sort of synergy, we received three small indie movies in a row from the library. Two were good, and one was great.

Bernie (2011) Jack Black manages to control and channel his usual over-the-top-ness playing an assistant funeral director/choir director in a small Texas town who befriends a cranky old woman, played hoot-inducingly by Shirley MacLaine. Matthew McConaghey is great as the smarmy but well meaning local politician, and the performances are all elevated by the surrounding chorus of small town gossips, some of whom are from the town where the movie’s story is based.

Celeste and Jesse Forever
(2012) Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are charming as a couple who married young but can’t quite make it in the long run. Lots of nice supporting roles for good character actors, and a story that mostly lightly treads a tough balancing act that could easily have veered into the saccharine. Quiet, a little slow, but worthwhile.

Safety Not Guaranteed Up front, I loved the movie. This definitely belongs on that Entertainment Weekly list of movies you should see that you may not have heard of. (The previous two probably do, also, but this one, most definitely.)

Aubrey Plaza plays a withdrawn character not unlike that of April Ludgate on Parks and Rec, just minus the goofiness. She’s a magazine intern who gets assigned to check out a weird classified ad that seeks a partner for time travel. She and two others from the paper meet up with the guy who may or may not be nuts, and things play out in weird, surprising, sad, and sweet ways. Again, the tone on this could have gone so wrong, and that it didn’t veer into offensively weird or saccharine sweet delighted me. SEE THIS FILM.

Recent Adventures in Movies

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

My husband and I have been buying far too many Blu rays. Shameful, really. There’s no way we can watch them as fast as we buy them. Like books, our appetite exceeds our capacity.

I lamented that we’d had some duds after doing an enjoyable run of B movies. Then Admission disappointed. Things do seem to be on the upswing, though.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Directed by a woman, with a strong woman main character. Too long, but worthwhile.

Blood Simple. The Coen Brothers first movie, and still just so, so good. Part of the Coen Bros Blu ray set I got my husband for his birthday.

Raising Arizona. No sophomore slump for the Coen Brothers here. Interestingly, I’d never had the white hot love for this movie that others did, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this time. “Son, you’ve got a panty on your head.” Hilarious, yet touching.

Harry Potter 5 The Order of the Phoenix. With the boys. Great work by Imelda Taunton and fun to see the kids grow up with each movie. A good enough adaptation of a too-long book.

Looper. Hard to follow because of its timey-wimey wibbly wobbly-ness. A decent action movie with some great bits and ideas, and a surprise big plot twist toward the end. Joseph Gordon Levitt is great per usual, Bruce Willis is good as a bad guy, Emily Blunt’s American accept is faultless. Some nice nods to Terminator, but that’s still the gold standard of time travel action flicks. My expectations were too high, and I found the movie’s take on time travel hard to follow–it chooses alternate timelines rather than a linear one.

Nobody Else but You. French noir murder mystery. An enjoyable and visually impressive riff on the Marilyn myth.

“Admission” (2013)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

I really, really wanted to like Admission, the new movie with Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and directed by Paul Weitze, who did About a Boy.

But it’s just not very good. I was glad I saw it for free. Even matinee prices would be too much. Trite, uninvolving. A huge waste of huge talents.

A Hodgepodge of Movies

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I think my B-movie bender is coming to a close. While I still can’t quite motivate myself to go see Lincoln, I think the quality of my movie watching is going to pick up because of TV reruns post-February sweeps (except for FX’s The Americans, which is amazing and you should watch it then email me so we can obsess nerdishly over it.) and because the last movie I watched, A Dangerous Method, was so disappointing.

A Dangerous Method by Cronenberg with Viggo, and my boyfriend Fassbender. And yet, less than the sum of its parts. As with most Cronenberg films, its about violence, desire, and what are acceptable boundaries, to whom. It came across more salacious than his other movies I’ve liked, though, Eastern Promises and A History of Violence, and seemed more of a snapshot of the relationship between Jung and Freud instead of a story with a beginning middle and end. Not for me.

Then there was Soderberg’s Contagion, which was a solid but unremarkable thriller that played nicely by making Gwyneth unsympathetic, unattractive and then outright disgusting. But I got sick right after and have been since, so my appreciation waned quickly. Maybe watching that movie was like the opposite of the panacea effect?

Guppy couldn’t remember having watched My Neighbor Totoro, so I watched it with him and 9yo Drake, who both laughed and smiled throughout. I love that film.

And then my husband G. Grod and I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid last night. Still great, after all these years. I’m not a big fan of remakes, but I do wonder what Pitt and Clooney might do with it if given the change.

I think our quality of movies is on the upswing. We shall see.

In Praise of B Movies

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I have of late been on a B-movie bender. And oh, how it has helped keep up my mirth in the short, dark days of winter. (Or, winter as it is now, which is hardly anything, even here in MN, which is still short and dark, if not that cold or snowy.)

In years past, I’ve gone on Oscar-nominee benders, seeing movies like Capote, There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men. This year, for now, I have no taste for the deep and meaningful award-winning movie. Flight, about a plane crash? The Master, about a delusional cult-starter? Lincoln, a Spielberg Important Film? The Impossible, about a tsunami? No, thank you.

(I do still plan to see Zero Dark Thirty because: Jessica Chastain, Kathryn Bigelow, and Chris Pratt.)

Of this year’s Oscar contenders, I have seen The Silver Linings Playbook, which I enjoyed (as I had the book it was based on) Argo and Les Mis, all of which were crowd-pleasing but Silver Linings is the only one I’d recommend highly. The other two were overtly emotionally manipulative; I could feel the buttons being pushed and the puppet-strings being pulled.

When I look back over the movies and DVDs I watched in 2012, I can see the same pattern of enjoying B movies, but being disappointed in so-called Important ones. Will it last? I don’t know. Is it that the Important Movies don’t look good enough to justify the pain they portray? Or am I just looking for a balance between Complex and Involving/Engaging (e.g., Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker), and if I have to choose between Important and Entertaining, I’ll take the latter.

In December/January, Friday Night Lights sent me on something of a Taylor Kitsch (Riggins!) bender, which I then followed with a Channing Tatum bender, and accidentally (but happily) wound up with a Fass-bender. (Sorry).

Have I become a stereotypical cougar in my 40’s, ogling pretty boys young enough to be my son? Um, perhaps. (Wait, no! I looked up Kitsch, Tatum and Fassbender, and while they’re younger than me, they’re not young enough to be my sons! Woot!)

Friday Night Lights Seasons 3 to 5. My sister and I watched this in tandem so we could phone and email. I loved, loved, loved this series, and its portrayal of a loving, complicated, supportive marriage. I don’t like Texas or football particularly, but I adored this series. Also, Wire alums: Wallace! D’Angelo! So glad to see you guys again!

Savages. I loved the gonzo, over-the-top violent book, and figured the adaptation directed by Oliver Stone would either be a perfect match, or a clustercuss. I choose perfect match, though critics didn’t like it. I thought it was visually arresting, and kind of a blast. Caveat: choose the rated, not the unrated version. It’s Oliver Stone, and the unrated version had me looking at the ceiling a lot till my husband told me it was OK to look back at the screen. Benicio went over the top with scene chewing, but I thought Salma, Travolta, and Taylor Kitsch did some great work.

John Carter
. Not as bad as I’d feared, with really impressive effects. Fun to watch. Reminded me strongly of the original Star Wars, and I think my two boys, 7 and 9 years old, would really enjoy it as a sci-fi epic. It might seem derivative but only because it was what everything since has been based on.

Battleship. Swear to you, I was doubtful, but this is a fun movie that will occasionally surprise you (its inclusion of real military vets). If you were a fan of FNL, then it’s directed by Peter Berg and has both Riggins and Landry, and a terrific funny long opening scene. Rihanna shouldn’t quit her day job.

Haywire. I will watch anything that Steven Soderbergh directs. It may not be great, but it WILL be interesting. This one about a female assassin was involving to watch, then the extras elevated it. The star is a real-life mixed-martial-arts champion, and is impressive to watch fight, though her acting skills weren’t enough to really carry the movie. Channing Tatum (whose Magic Mike can be seen as a companion to this, for messing up the gaze and who we cheer for and what we want for them) was solid, plus, Michael Fassbender! Love him. For the fight scenes alone, this worked for me.

Step Up. OK, bear with me here. I saw this mentioned in Entertainment Weekly as part of a reminder that Wire alums were in it. This one had Deirdre Lovejoy as a mom. It’s Romeo-and-Juliet-ish, though it took that analogy a little too far in its final 30 minutes. My husband G. Grod and I watched the first hour and he agreed that it was decent, and it’s fun to watch Channing Tatum dance, and in some scenes, pretend like he can’t dance. But when we watched the last 30 minutes the next night, we were groaning. So, the first hour and the dancing, thumbs up. Plot developments toward the end? I can only shake my head.

X-Men First Class. My husband swore it wasn’t that bad and since I’d made him watch Step Up, this only seemed fair. And again, this was a perfectly good, entertaining B movie! Kevin Bacon seems to sink his teeth into evil, McAvoy can’t quite cover up his Scottish accent the whole time, January Jones can’t act but looks pretty, while Jennifer Lawrence does both, and, again, FASSBENDER! A few nice, geeky cameos, too.

I’m not sure if our B-bender is going to continue, but it’s been nice to lower my standards, and embiggen my enjoyment.